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Claireece Precious Jones is sixteen years old. She cannot read or write and she is pregnant with her second child. Precious wants to learn. Her math teacher says she has ‘aptitude’ for numbers. That makes Precious happy. School is the only place Precious is happy, because home means hell. Home equals ritual abuse; physical, psychological and sexual. Home means a fat mother who lets her father rape her. Precious wants to go to school, because it’s her only way out. And one day, somebody helps her find a perfect school, a school where she can start fresh and have the courage to sit at the front of the class, not behind. At this school, Ms. Rain becomes the angel of words, where Precious learns to spell the pain right out of her life.

PUSH

“I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver. That was 1983…
My daughter got Down Sinder. She’s retarded…
My name is Claireece Precious Jones.”

Gritty, harsh, but tender and intensely human… this is written from the unique perspective of Precious; a young black woman living in Harlem with a terrible secret and a life scarred with crippling shame. Precious’ journal  (written in broken English) is endearing with its childish spellings, yet forceful in the clarity of the experiences it unfolds. And Precious is like a child, even though she is a mother of two babies, who are unfortunately also her siblings. She yearns for a clean life and rages at the hand dealt to her, but despite this, Precious has a goal and she can still dream. Precious’s wish to be a white girl, to be a virgin, to be young and clean and have people see the ‘good’ person inside her and not judge her by her looks or her past proliferates throughout the book. It’s heart-breaking and shocking to think this kind of thing still goes on in developed countries.
As a reader, we are put in her shoes. We live and breath the pain Precious must endure. At times, this kind of proximity can be too uncomfortable, but it attempts to answer the question everyone secretly asks themselves when they hear about situations like this, ‘how does one cope?’. The answer is to rise above yourself, which is exactly what Precious learns to do. This is an astonishing novel whose perspective never wavers for a minute. Sapphire always retains a steady focus on the psychology of the people who have to endure trauma’s like AIDS, drug addiction and incest.
So much pain, humiliation, confusion… but through it all Precious’s iron resolve to free herself from the sins she has been made to commit made me so proud of her and of the people like her who have endured this. At times, shocking to read, but the tenderness and scenes of female camaraderie kept me through it. Couldn’t put it down. Absolutely fabulous.I give it 4/5 stars.

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