This is the story of Precious Jones, a sixteen-year-old illiterate black girl who has never been out of Harlem. She is pregnant by her own father for the second time, and kicked out of school when that pregnancy becomes obvious. Placed in an alternative teaching programme, she learns to read and write. This is Precious's diary, in which she honestly records her relationships and life.
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(198mm x 129mm x 12mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
Poet Sapphire's slim first novel draws on her experience as a performance artist and literacy teacher: She tells her sad but sentimentally uplifting story in the voice of a 17-year-old illiterate from Harlem, and the result is more sociological (in the Ricki Lake mold) than literary. Clareece Precious Jones is a study in abuse. Continually raped by her father since the age of five, she's now pregnant for the second time with his baby, the first having been born with Down's syndrome when Precious was 12. Meantime, her mother is no help, calling the overweight girl a "fat cunt bucket slut," beating her at will, and satisfying her own bizarre sexual needs from her daughter. Schools have also all failed her; teachers find her "uncooperative," and she considers her last a "retarded hoe." Finally, Precious enrolls in a Harlem alternative school where she begins the tough climb out of illiteracy. No longer dreaming impossible ideas about rappers and movie star fame, she joins six others in a basic-skills class run by Blue Rain, a self-proclaimed lesbian who isn't afraid to editorialize in class. In short order, Precious discovers the joys of the alphabet and journal-writing, the pleasures of owning books and composing poetry. Although she raises herself to a seventh-grade level by narrative's end, she also finds out she's HIV positive. All of this is transcribed in a phonetic spelling that's supposed to reflect Precious's actual abilities, but seems condescending - and woefully unauthentic - since Sapphire often loses control of the voice. The homage to The Color Purple ("One thing I say about Farrakhan and Alice Walker they help me like being black") highlights Sapphire's commercial aspirations, as well as, by contrast, her technical inadequacies. A maudlin (at times pornographic) advertisement for the power of literacy and the value of recovery groups. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Sapphire
Sapphire is the author of American Dreams, a collection of poetry which was cited by Publisher's Weekly as, 'One of the strongest debut collections of the nineties.' Her novel Push, won the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association's First Novelist Award, and in Great Britain, the Mind Book of the Year Award. Push was named by TimeOut 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. About her last book of poetry, Poet's and Writer's Magazine wrote, 'With her soul on the line in each verse, her latest collection, Black Wings & Blind Angels, retains Sapphire's incendiary power to win hearts and singe minds.' Sapphire's work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, Spin, and Bomb. Sapphire's work has been translated in eleven languages and has been adapted for stage in the United States and Europe.