This year has seen a lot of changes in my reading habits. Most notably has been my foray into audiobooks, and while peppered with a few hiccups here and there, it has been so successful that it is now to the point that I always have an audiobook downloaded.
While Push by Sapphire was an absolutely incredible story, tragic and hopeful, with strong and decisively clear messages, it was one I wish I had stopped listening to, and instead picked up the printed version instead. If you're familiar with the story, then you know it's about a young girl living in a neighborhood project with horribly abusive parents. Giving birth to her father's baby when she was only twelve, Precious is now sixteen and is pregnant with his child again. She can't read, so school is more of a haven for her to get away from the abuse, even though she doesn't participate in class at all. When she does, it's merely to tell other students to quiet down. Her weight gives her the extra intimidation to be left alone.
This is not an easy story. Precious hasn't been given any break at all in her short life, and even though she knows she's experiencing horrible things children aren't supposed to go through, it's the only thing she has truly ever known, so it seems as though she almost becomes acclimated to the terror of it all. She's a prisoner in her own life, held hostage by her parents. How can she escape out of it, especially when your captor is someone who is supposed to protect you?
I selected this audiobook because of Bahni Turpin's narration, and if you read my recent review of the audiobook production of The Help, then you know how much I love listening to her voice. In this production, true to form yet again, she has excellent delivery and emotional exertion, and along with Precious' story, leaves the listener thoroughly wiped out. While just under six hours, it was one I did finish because I had to see if Precious did escape from it all, and because of Bahni Turpin's perfect voice.
I cannot read or hear about abuse. It makes me sick, I have nightmares if I even see a quick snippet on the news about something that's happened to anyone, especially a child. Others may be afraid of things that go bump in the night, but it is the plight of children dealt a horrible card in life that keeps me up. Because of this, I had an incredibly difficult time with the audio version of this story. Please note that Bahni Turpin did a fantastic job, but the graphic nature of Precious' reality and what she experiences is so devastating and difficult to listen to without becoming even more emotionally affected by the abuse. I felt like I was sitting next to Precious as she relayed, in first-person graphic perspective, everything that happens with her father and her mother, her conflicted feelings, the births of her children, the struggle of her education. The author, Sapphire, has brought this brutal truth of complexities and internal human conflict to the forefront so effectively that I was gripping my steering wheel listening to each moment, crying, wishing for something innocent and good to happen for Precious, just once in her life. I was infuriated by the abuse, and I know that Precious represents so many children in the world that I was left sick with anger. And although it crushes me to write that I think you should skip the audio over the printed version because you'll miss out on Bahni Turpin's voice, this is a story that, in my opinion, should be read, not listened to.
Raw and emotionally engaging, Sapphire has pulled you through one young girl's life so descriptively that in the end, you are left reeling, mind wandering, with a feeling, a need to do something, anything at all to be part of something bigger than what you are doing in your life now. Can I make a difference, something good? Can I not do what I used to do anymore, which was to simply read about it, or watch something on the news and then move on, allowing someone else to take care of it?
For a beautiful review post on this book, please visit The Picky Girl's site by clicking here.
About the Author
Sapphire is the author of American Dreams, a collection of poetry which was cited by Publishers Weekly as "One of the strongest debut collections of the nineties." Push, her novel, won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the America Library Association's First Novelist Award, and, in Great Britain, the Mind Book of the Year Award. Push was named by the Village Voice and Time Out New York as one of the top ten books of 1996. Push was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Outstanding Literary Work of Fiction.
Sapphire currently lives and works in New York City.
Surprisingly, I couldn't find a website or Twitter account for Sapphire - if anyone has the links, please forward my way and I will edit this post to include both.