50 books a year, AIDS, book review, Harlem, precious, sapphire, Substance dependence, Support Groups, United States
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.
“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.
I read this book a couple of months back, and thought it was amazingly written. I know a lot of people found issues with the writing, but I was glad it was written in true first perspective. It really put things into perspective. Great review!
I saw the film, and then bought the book, but I haven’t read it yet. The film was wonderfully done, and very moving. That was one strong character.
Glad you liked it as much as I did Aths. It was gritty, very gritty and I can see how it might make some people feel uncomfortable. I always say that writing about things that happen is halfway to combating them. The more people know about it, the more we can fight things like this. Dark things breed in dark places, but they cannot stand the light of day. Sapphire is a brave author. I hope to read more of her stuff.
Hi whisperinggums. I did the opposite, I found out about the film so I got the book! But the book was so good I don’t want to watch the film anymore. I’m wondering if it will live up to it. But the trailer looked awesome.
It was a great film. Must say I had no idea it was based on a book when I read it but, while I like to read books first where I can, if I’d known I probably would still have seen the film when I did.
I’ll take it that the film made a great impression on you. I’ll do my best to get my hands on it. I think it’s out on DVD now, must have caught my eye in HMV.
It’s just I’m not sure I want to actually ‘see’ the poor things Precious has to endure. But it’s not 18 certificate, so I suppose they mellowed it out for a younger audience.
I absolutely did … i do have a high tolerance for grim things (not gratuitous violence but for grim reality I can manage) but I can’t recollect a lot of explicit depiction. If it was there it wasn’t what I came away with. I cam away with the terrible trials of her life and how through some support of other but mainly her own amazing spirit and strength of spirit she kept going.
You wrote a very thoughtful review of Precious. It is a heart-wrenching story. I reviewed it in either July or August. I think I’m going to follow you. Our tasts seem similar. Have a great week.
Hi Donna, welcome to Wordly Obsessions and thank you for your kind comment. It’s great when I meet other’s with similar literary tastes. Thanks for the follow. Hmm, I’m trying to visit your blog but I think there’s something wrong with the link in your name. I’d very much like to read your review of it too.
Have a great week too 🙂
lisa :) said:
Great review, Zee. I haven’t read this one or seen the movie, but I’ve been interested in both since hearing the praise received by the movie. I really like how your review explored the theme of rising above. I think as a reader it’s important to explore unpleasant subjects sometimes and open our eyes to some of the horrors in the world around us. Often times educating ourselves is the first step towards changing the world.
Thanks Lisa. Glad to see you think the same. One of the key attractions of reading is the stuff you can learn. Book like ‘Push’ expand the boundaries of perception. It makes people ask questions, whether they agree on the subject matter or not.
‘Push’ is one of those books that is forceful enough to make our teenagers sit up and pay attention. The hardest readership is the Young Adult age group. You could hand it over to a typical, grumpy adolescent who won’t read anything outside of what the school makes them read, and watch them devour it in a couple of days.
In fact, Sapphire’s novel should be a classic study text for schools, because there is so much to explore in terms of language and writing (even though it’s written in broken English). I think it might even provoke kids to write a little better after reading about Precious’s struggle to become someone through education. Though it’s use of expletives is probably the only thing that keeps it from being used in this way.