Friday, November 13, 2009

I only recently learned of the book Push (1996) when I saw a theater preview for the movie, Precious, based on it. I, of course, knew I wanted to read it right away. It was a short book and I thought it was good. Not great but not awful either. But it was a very difficult read -- in more than one way.

One difficulty was the abuse issue. It's put right out there from the beginning that Precious is sexually abused by her father consistently. At the beginning of the book, Precious is pregnant with her second child by her father. Throughout the book, Precious gives some description of the abuse. Though brief, these descriptions are vivid. To make it increasingly worse, Precious is abused by her mother physically, emotionally, and sexually as well.

*Sidenote* In my "real life" outside of blogging, I interview children who have been sexually abused to get all the details and facts regarding the abuse for law enforcement and/or child protective services to do their investigations. Despite hearing about these details in real life, I tend to get more disturbed when I read about it in fiction. A well-known author commented on one of my reviews, when I complained about the use of too vivid descriptions of abuse, by saying I chose to view their (the girls') world with "frosty lenses". It's possible that I do, but I think it's almost necessary when working with this specific job. If I had the disgusted, emotional reactions I have when I read fiction with every child I interview, how unhealthy would that be?! Anyway, when it comes to reading, I guess I let my guard down and connect with the characters, and the descriptions are difficult. There were things described, however briefly, that yes, were difficult to read.

Another difficulty was the method of narration. Push is narrated by the main character, Clareece Precious Jones, aka Precious. The story is told using her manner of speech which takes some getting used to. A main event in the story is when the characters learn to read and write. At that point in the story, Precious starts narrating using her knowledge of letters, as though she is writing a letter. Initially it was very confusing (and was translated into what she meant). As her writing improved, the translation went away but it was still difficult to figure out. Then it got to a point where you could more easily understand what she was saying. It was a unique method but was somewhat frustrating as well. It wasn't every page that was narrated in this way but, rather, certain parts. I'd like to post a couple examples. Below is the first paragraph of the book:

I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver. That was in 1983. I was out of school for a year. This gonna be my second baby. My daughter got Down Sinder. She's retarded. I had got left back in the second grade too, when I was seven, 'cause I couldn't read (and I still peed on myself). I should be in the eleventh grade, getting ready to go into the twelf' grade so I can gone 'n graduate. But I'm not. I'm in the ninfe grade.

This next part is from later in the book in one of her journal entries:

For a monf it bin like this. I feel daze. Ms Rain see it say you not same girl i kno. is tru. I am a difrent persn anybuddy wood be don't u think? dont u think.

Part of me wonders if my lack of outright amazement at the book is because in the 13 years since this book has come out we, readers, have seen so many other stories along the same lines and stories that utilize similarly unique methods of narration (though the 2 I think of off the top of my head are actually much older than this book). Anyhow, it is a short, quick read. (I read it in one night/ almost one sitting). I look forward to seeing the movie, but expect I will like the movie better than the book mainly because I think we will gain a more well-rounded understanding of Precious than we have in the book. Push is most definitely a sad but triumphant book.

I would like to share a link that I found recently on another blog. I totally blanked on whose blog I got this from, so I'm sorry!! If it's you, please let me know and I'll edit this to give you credit. The link is to an interview with the author, Sapphire, discussing how Push became a movie. It's actually very interesting. The end of the article also has a longer excerpt from the first chapter.

Click here to go to the interview with Sapphire


Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Wow, this sounds like a compelling story!

I, too, will probably enjoy the movie more than the book, but I think I'll put the book on my list anyway.

As you know, I had a career in child welfare services, and unlike most people in that field, I do enjoy reading and watching movies about the topic. I can't find any social workers willing to read or watch these movies.

I'm not sure why I don't find these materials difficult, but perhaps I'm just weird!

sumanam said...

I don't know what to say!!! There is so much rave about the movie... I don't think I will watch the movie, i have a kind of wierd policy, that if there is a book , I read the book and never watch the movie or theater...but the book, now Iam not sure if I want to read it at all...too much vivid descriptions of abuse!!! it's too overwhelming to take in...you are brave you work in that field...

Laughing Stars said...

We recently bought this book after hearing the buzz about the movie. I know what you mean about viewing abuse through frost covered glasses, because you deal with it in your work.

christine (booktumbling) said...

I imagine you would have to, in some sense, distance yourself from the true life accounts you hear in your job. Otherwise, I imagine it would be too difficult to continue. I have been curious of the book with all of the publicity of the movie. Thank you for a wonderful review.

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Jenny, I have an award for you at

Ryan G said...

I still haven't decided if I'm going to read the book or not but I'm definetly going to see the movie. It's one of those that you almost feel compelled to watch. Everything thing of seen of it so far tells me it will be hard to watch but well worth it.

Jenny said...

I didn't realize I didn't reply to any comments here yet. Sorry!

Laurel -- I'm not as bad as some people, but yeah, I guess some things I just don't want to hear more about, hehe. You probably have really good boundaries!

Sumanam -- wow! I definitely like to read the book first (and sometimes still give in) but NEVER watch the movie? good for you though, because the book is almost always better!

Laughing Stars -- I look forward to seeing what you think about it!

Christine -- I agree... I have to distance myself a little. That author's comment really frustrated me!

Ryan -- yes, I feel compelled to watch it too. But I could really recommend reading the book or not. I think I'll like the movie better.

April (BooksandWine) said...

Great review, like I said on Twitter, I agree with all you have written. This was a difficult book to read, and it was hard to read the vivid descriptions.

trish said...

I hadn't planned on reading this book, but I think I will now since you said the book is pretty short. It breaks my heart to know there's people out there like this. I don't know how you do your job, Jenny, but I'm glad you do it!

PS I sent you an email because I'm working on the tour for the follow-up to PUSH, which is THE KID.

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