Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Vintage Contemporaries, c1996, 1997, 2009
Genres: General fiction, urban lit, street lit
Intended audience: Adult
Number of pages: 177 (180 including Reader’s Guide)
Setting: Harlem, Manhattan, NYC
Time period: 1987 – 1989
Plot summary: Sixteen year old, Precious Jones lives an extremely hard life. Born and raised in Harlem, she has been raped by her father and abused by her mother in a variety of ways since she was a small child. She bore her first child at the age of twelve and is pregnant again at the age of sixteen. She is illiterate, obese, and has no friends or self-esteem. Her life changes radically for the better when she is expelled from her traditional school and enters a pre-GED program.
Pacing: The steady pace makes for a quick read.
Characterization: Told in first person through Claireece Precious Jones. The most important secondary characters are Precious’s teacher, Blue Rain, and her classmates.
Language: Strong street language filled with expletives which may offend some. The writing also reveals Precious’s struggles with learning how to read and write.
Frame: The original title for this book – Push – sets the frame – giving birth. Precious gives birth three times in this story – twice for her children and once for herself. It is the pushing which Precious does for herself which truly sets her on her life’s path.
Tone: By the third paragraph, the reader is fully aware of Precious’s horrible home life, as well as the fact that she is trying to make a change by telling a story: “some people tell a story ‘n it don’t make no sense or be true. But I’m gonna try to make sense and tell the truth, else what’s the fucking use? Ain’ enough lies and shit out there already?” (p. 3-4). The fact that Precious hopes for a better life is what allows her to tell her story.
Story line: Raw and gritty, explicit and twisted.
African Americans — Fiction.
Teenage mothers — Fiction.
African American girls — Fiction.
Child abuse — Fiction.
Literacy — Fiction.
Incest — Fiction.
Harlem (New York, N.Y.) — Fiction.
Bastard out of Carolina – Dorothy Allison
Touching Snow – M. Sindy Felin
Runaway – Wendelin Van Draanen
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
Life is Fine – Allison Whittenberg
Personal notes: This was a very intense read. I can’t really say I enjoyed it because it was very hard to read about a life as messed up as Precious’s. There were certain spots where I had to put the book down and take a break from the story. However, it was wonderful to see the character grow as much as she did.
I think it’s interesting that this book was republished under the title Precious. This was done to make it easier for people who are familiar with the movie to find the book. This strategy seems to have backfired in my library system, however, since the book titled Push has holds on it, while Precious does not.
Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – teenage mother, rape and incest survivors, Black women, Latina women, lesbians, West Indian woman, New Yorkers, obese woman
Sapphire was the 2009 recipient of a Fellow Award in Literature from United States Artists.