Push by Sapphire
I honestly temporarily considered not reviewing this novel, and just moving on to my next book. I think this has a lot to do with the way I reacted to the novel - between the film coverage and other reviews of the novel, I expected to be more or less moved to tears by this novel and I wasn't (I'm also not always a big fan of poetry which may have had something to do with this). Rather than talk about the fact that I wasn't as moved as everyone else, I thought maybe I should just not talk about it at all.
It's not that this novel wasn't well-written. In fact there were quite a few things about it that I liked. Given the coverage I've seen of the film I also expected it to be more hopeful at that end, but Sapphire does not take the easy way out - Precious may finally be learning and may have found a supportive group but the system is still failing her and there is very little hope for her future.
As the novel progresses, Precious learns to articulate the things that happened to her in different ways, and questions the place she grew up. She no longer takes it when her mother accuses her of "stealing her boyfriend" and stands up for herself, yelling that she was raped. While she has very mixed emotions about what has happened to her, she is rightfully indignant when a nurse tells her she "had hoped I be done learned from my mistakes" (75) as if she somehow asked her father to rape her. I liked seeing the ways Precious grew more confident and the way she started thinking about things from different perspectives. Both times when Precious gives birth, she answers the question about who the father is truthfully but it is only later that she wonders why no one ever did anything about the fact that it was her father - no one called the cops or arrested him when she was 12, and it continued to happen.
I also enjoyed seeing the connections between this novel and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Precious says that she sees herself as white and blond on the inside, and that if people saw her that way, they would know she is too good to be treated the way she is. It is only when she starts attending the alternative school taught by Ms. Rain that she begins to see herself differently.
The novel ends with a few selections from the class journal, and I would have liked to have heard more of some of Precious's classmates' stories. I guess the novel felt a little bit incomplete to me, and I wouldn't have minded a few more pages to see what would happen. However, I can also see why Sapphire would end it where she did - at this point, there is still some hope - if Sapphire had kept writing she would have either been crushing even that small piece of hope or she would have been creating an unrealistic happy ending. It was probably better to leave it where she did - a life that is slightly improving but that could easily fall and break based on the smallest tragedy or misfortune.