Thursday, 18 March 2010

Push by Sapphire (review)

Even though the title of this version of the book is Precious: Based on the Novel Push the novel is actually Push.

This book is not an easy read. It is written so deeply and the character of Precious is so....complete...that it was hard for me to believe this was a work of fiction. However, at the same time I am relieved that it was. The abuse this teenager endures is completely heartbreaking. Her strength and determination is admirable. She and the other students in her literacy class are nothing short of heroes. Precious and her classmates are all young women who are illiterate or near illiterate. They all have endured only what is in your worst nightmares but they are all working to better themselves.

If you are a sensitive person, the graphic description of physical, mental, and sexual abuse in this book will make it unbearable for you to read. This book seems to address almost every social taboo there is: illiteracy, race issues, abuse, incest, STDs, Down Syndrome, homosexuality, homophobia, social class, the welfare system, education and more.

What's unique about the way this book was written is that it's not written using perfect grammar or spelling. It's written the way Precious would have wrote it. This is why I found it so hard to believe that it was a novel. I have read that it was based on a true story but this isn't entirely true. Sapphire tells where the idea form the book came from here. (Note it does contain some spoilers.)

What was your inspiration for creating such an unforgettable character?
"She's a composite of many young women I encountered when I worked as a literacy teacher in Harlem and the Bronx for 7 years. Over and over I met people with circumstances similar to hers, many with her amazing spirit. I wanted to create a novel with a young person like that. To me she has not existed in literature before. She existed on TV …but as a statistic -- as an 18-year-old HIV+ woman who can't read with two children. I wanted to show her as a human being, to enter into her life and show that she is a very complex person deserving of everything this culture has to offer."

Many people have reviewed this book and walked away completely offended. Sometimes reading about the ugly side of human nature and all of these social taboos is very hard for people. This book takes our Shadow issues and makes us confront them face to face. Other people said the book just made them feel depressed. To those, I say finish it. When you read about the strength of this young woman and how she completely turns her life around and breaks the cycle of abuse, it is utterly inspiring.

I am happy to say this is the first book that I have read that gets Photobucket ! This book truly changed my life!

The Movie
I was disappointed. It was a toned down version of the book. There was no sexual abuse from the mother. You never actually see the mother hit Precious but she tries. Precious barely talks about the abuse so you never really get an idea about the extent of the abuse she has suffered.

Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Best Actress. I really respect and admire this young woman but I honestly don't think she deserved an Oscar nomination. I found her character spent most of the time staring into space looking confused or sad. Granted that's what Precious does in the book most of the time, but I just didn't think her acting was extraordinary. She rarely showed emotion about anything.

Her mother, played by Mo'Nique, just blew me away. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She truly became this character. I can't imagine how hard it was to play a severely abusive mother. I even liked Mariah Carey's character, Mrs. Weiss. Did she truly care about Precious and want to help her? You're never quite sure. I kind of liked that you never know for sure.

I just wonder how accurate this story was to what life is really like in Harlem. Would their apartment really be that nice? In the book, Precious's mother was a nasty woman who didn't take care of herself. In the movie she was a little obcessed with her appearence. Precious was obcessed with being a movie star. I thought this was portrayed just a little too artsy. Would someone that obcessed with becoming a famous movie star really care so much about reading and writing? I don't know.

The ending to the movie was unrealistic and a little too Pollyanna in my opinion.

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