Push by Sapphire
It’s hard to imagine what’s more horrifying: a pregnant twelve-year-old who has been sexually abused by her father since she was an infant, or the depravity of our nation’s impoverished as seen through the eyes of an illiterate teenage mother in Harlem. Sapphire does not offer us the option in Push, through the character of Claireece P. Jones, preferably known simply as Precious.
Precious seems an odd name for this girl, since no one in her sixteen years has ever alluded to the fact that she might be just that. In the eyes of her mother, she is a nuisance, a caretaker, and occasionally, a punching bag; in the eyes of her father, she is his personal midnight plaything; in the eyes of the I.S. 146 school, she’s not worth the effort. She’s been held back in middle school for multiple years, but how she made it to middle school without knowing the basic alphabet is a mystery.
No one tells her she matters. That is, no one until Ms. Blue Rain, her teacher at the Higher Education Alternative/Each One Teach One pre-G.E.D. program. Ms. Rain shows Precious how to rise above her situations through written expression. She teaches Precious and the other girls in her class to read and to write, and then instructs them to write each day, expressing their emotions on life. Precious, at first, doesn’t even want to read a page because she cannot distinguish one piece of paper riddled with text from another. Ms. Rain tells her, “Push.”
Push. Push out the baby, the EMT tells Precious on her kitchen floor as she’s delivering her first child at twelve years old.
Push. Push through each individual letter until a word appears.
Push. Push through the pain and confusion of the past, and emerge on the other side a new person.
And Precious finds out, when you push yourself into a new person, the person who was gives way.