In 1996, I was five years deep in the “life”. And i was still the avid reader. I was introduced to “Inklings”by one of my best friends, Shun. Back then there were three GLBT bookstores in Houston, Texas; Lobo’s, Crossroads, & Inklings. Inklings was the feminist/lesbian bookstore, so I spent a lot of hours there.
When visiting these bookstores, I often noticed that there were not many titles by African-American writers…especially women. E.Lynn Harris, and James Earl Hardy were churning out great books in the 90’s, but for me, I needed a[nother] sister’s voice to push me along my journey. Audre, Nikki, Alice, Iyanla had gave me a blueprint. But i was still timid…
One day…I’ll never forget…I had just made love to a woman I loved, and I wanted to give her a card. I left her house that Saturday morning and went straight to Inkling’s. I found the perfect card, and looked at some of the jewelry. I was about to check out, and something said “see what new titles they have”. I turned around and it was it was on the table right behind me…stacked up neatly…one on top slightly opened, staring at me…I said to myself, “a black woman wrote that”. I picked it up, and saw her…Sapphire…and smiled. I didn’t read one page, I simply paid for it and left.
That night I ran a bath, and figured i’d read a few pages. Needless to say, three hours later, I had read the entire book.
The first time I read “Push” by Sapphire…I wept. I’m talking uncontrollable sobs, and whimpers. It was if she [Sapphire] knew my pain…my struggles…my fear…my lack of confidence; things I continue to conquer today. That small red book, with black vertical letters changed me, and I’ve kept it in my heart since the day I bought it at “Inklings”. I let someone borrow the book. It was never returned, and I assume it’s long gone. It was actually a signed copy, and I have kicked myself in the ass for years for not asking about it. Same thing happened when my best friend Carlton died. I had lent him my signed “Invisible Life” and didn’t dare ask his mother for it after he passed. Yet still, I often wonder who has my “Push” signed hardback. I only hope they cherish it, as I do.
So it’s years later…and now it’s “Precious”. I saw the movie, and was more than pleased. I shed a few tears, and was shocked at how quickly I begin to despise Mo’Nique. I had to keep reminding myself…”she’s acting”. But my goodness…she’s one hell of an actress. The [positive]reviews for the movie are 100% valid. I’ve said for YEARS that every woman…black, white, brown, yellow, red…shoul read this book. “Push” is NOT just about sexual abuse, & illiteracy. It’s about the “cycle” that so many of us never seem to break. It’s about making the decisions you know you need to make for yourself, and your seeds. It’s about family communication. It’s about learning to LOVE yourself…and believing in the Creator, even when you don’t want to…or know how to. It’s about asking for help. It’s about saying “No…enough is enough”
The movie is graphic. If I had never been sexually assaulted, both the book and the movie would have terrified me. A lot of us have not been touched by the uncle, the cousin, mama’s boyfriend, etc. So a lot of us can’t possibly understand the horror of being violated in your own home…on a consistent basis. We don’t want to look at our brothers or our sisters and think that they would touch a child, let alone do the vile that some do. We gossip about the things going on in other folks’ houses, but we never call the authorities? Why is that? Why don’t we get involved? Why don’t we confront the people hurting our children? Our niece’s? Our nephews? Our future? I’ll tell you why…because most of us are simply consumed with bullshit…nothing more…nothing less.
Daniels did an exquisite job directing this film adaptation. Mariah Carey’s character was so incredibly realistic, I forget it was the songstress. In addition, Lenny Kravitz portrayal as Precious’ nurse is remarkable. Each character of Sapphire’s masterpiece was cast perfectly. Gabby is Precious; pun intended! When I saw her audition footage via YouTube, I smiled on the inside. I had read blogs, and info about the Sundance sweep and was quite intrigued with the casting. In the novel, Sapphire’s writing is so brilliant, you feel as if you can see, smell, hear, and feel each character. Daniels does an excellent job capturing the “dark meat and grizzle” of the story. For instance, in the novel Sapphire describes frying chicken for her mother, and my stomach began to growl. In the film, Daniels includes that excerpt in the film perfectly. In addition, his use of location, and set design provides a small glimpse of late 80’s New York, which was nostalgic for a B-Girl like myself.
Recently, I discovered that Sapphire sold the Push manuscript at a publisher’s auction. She’s published a few poetry anthologies, yet “Push” is the only fiction she’s published. For years, I have searched…and waited for something “new” by her. While on the Mo’Nique show on Tuesday, she was so cool and collected. My heart was full like she was my auntie or something. She still wears that low fade; and her “chile, let me tell ya” made me smile. She explained the “birth” of the character “Precious” and that made me feel secure. As a writer, i know it can difficult pulling ideas, and thoughts from people’s lives. The last thing you want to do is offend someone by what you’ve taken from their world. She spoke of the many directors who approached her about this project, and thank goodness she was finally impressed with Mr. Daniels. It’s true what the elders say…”Everything happens for a reason…and it happens when it’s supposed to happen”
It seems that every day I am having some dialogue about the story…the author…the writer…and it makes me happy. The novel was #1 on the NYC Bestsellers last week…can you imagine that?! Black people are READING real books…real stories again. As a self-publisher I have been so worried about the decline in book sales. I researched the business over the business, while completing my first novel; hoping it will be a success.
After reading that book…I bought my first computer. And I begin to write. I then purchased and read her poetry anthology, “American Dreams” and it was those two pieces of literature that help me find my courage to claim myself a “writer”. Sapphire PUSH[ED] me…and it’s like she’s doing it all over again. And I am SO grateful…