8. “Push,” Sapphire

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I let this review sit for a few weeks, for reasons that will probably become clear.

I saw “Precious” for a paper I wrote for my Feminist Film class and my reaction to the film and the book are closely tied (surprisingly enough). It’s not a story one can claim to like, of course, but I wish my reaction were something other that reserved blankness. In case you don’t know the plot, Precious is a sixteen-year-old middle school student who is illiterate and pregnant with her second child. This child, like the first (who has Down’s Syndrome and lives with her grandmother) is product of her father’s repeated rapes. This book, which is written in the first person, begins when she is kicked out of middle school for being pregnant again. She enrolls in an alternative school where a supportive teacher helps her to learn how to read and to tell her story. In doing so, Precious gains the strength and self-worth necessary to escape the home of her physically, emotionally, verbally, financially, and sexually abusive mother. She has her second child and evntually takes custody of both her children and, with the help of a social worker, removes her mother from her live once and for all. But not before finding out that she has HIV, which she got from her dad. And then the story’s over.

This is a really loaded book. The paper I wrote was about reception theory with my own reactions as a white man watching this film woven in with the reactions of several Black women bloggers. I was trying to reconcile their differing views and receptions of the film with my own, starting from the belief that we are approaching a story loaded with issues of race, class, and sex from two very different points. This reading was touched off partially from director Lee Daniel’s invitation to “the beautiful white people” to laugh at the darkness of the film.

Because of how loaded this is, I’m not sure that my reactions to the book are entirely relevant, as I don’t think it was written for me. More than that, I think it was specifically not written for me (or people like me). So when I read it and feel uncomfortable about the (constant) aspiration to have light skin, I do so not from a space of identification (as a dark-skinned Black woman who has constantly seen lighter-skinned women get it better than they themselves do), but from an almost colonizing discomfort, a space of superiority that wants to say, “hey, you shouldn’t have to want your skin to be light (like mine).”

I think the book was written for Black women who either can identify with or are identified with with Precious’s status as a poor, abused, “stupid” young woman. So while I can say that I didn’t particularly care for this book and I didn’t really know what Sapphire wanted me to get from it, I will do so with the acknowlegement that this is probably because it wasn’t speaking to or about me.

I will, however, say that I did appreciate that the story didn’t end with Precious having a GED and headed to college, all happy and healthy. It ended better for her, but still damn hard, which I think is realistic.

Page count: 194
Page total: 1,603

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