Push: A Novel Essay - Critical Essays


Literary Criticism and Significance

When the novel Push was first published in 1996, the author, Sapphire, immediately began receiving requests to translate the book to film. She finally agreed to do so after seeing Director Lee Daniels’s work and believing that he would accurately interpret her novel. The book’s name was then changed to Precious to correlate with the film’s release in 2009. Hence, the book can be found under its original title as well as under its new title.

In a sense, Sapphire is a version of Ms. Rain. In a November 2009 interview with National Public Radio, Sapphire describes how she, like the novel’s teacher heroine, taught in alternate educational programs and began creating Precious’s character out of combining the experiences of several of her students who were locked out of society because of obesity, illiteracy, abuse, race, and/or social class. Similarly, in an interview with the director of Precious, Lee Daniels, Sapphire reveals that in the latter years of her Harlem teaching experience, she had noticed that more and more of her female students were being diagnosed with AIDS. To shed light on this new issue, Sapphire chose for Precious to wrestle with being diagnosed with HIV.

Push is a challenging read for any reader for several reasons. Not only is Sapphire brutally honest in her portrayal of a teenager’s life, but her detailed descriptions of Precious’s abuse from her mother and father are extremely graphic, so much so that the film version simply had to leave out these scenes. In addition to the novel’s gritty, realistic content, Sapphire employs the stream-of-consciousness technique to tell the story through Precious’s maturing mind. As Precious flashes back and forth between past and present, reality and fantasy, the reader experiences the young girl’s confusion and suffering with her. While Sapphire’s stylistic choices are effective and thought provoking, comprehending her writing could be difficult for struggling readers.