I was working at Bailey/Coy Books when Sapphire's novel Push was released in 1996. For those who don't know, Push is the first-person account of a morbidly obese, illiterate young black girl surviving a nightmare life of incest and abuse, and ultimately finding a reason to live in the act of writing. Landing in the thick of the "recovered memory" controversy/backlash and featuring astoundingly graphic depictions of the worst sexual abuse you've ever been forced to imagine, the book caused a mini shitstorm. (In the scene that's burned into my brain, our narrator Precious lives through her typical weeknight: frying up several meals' worth of food for her (also morbidly obese) mother, who force-feeds Precious the leftovers then—SPOILER ALERT—shoves her daughter's food-smeared face between her legs and forces the girl to perform cunnilingus on her. Also, Precious is pregnant for the second time after being raped by her father for more than the second time.)
I am not making this up, but Sapphire did, and what kept Push from being pornography or the literary sex-abuse equivalent of Faces of Death is the quality of the writing, which is highly stylized, hovering between the simple scrawlings of its illiterate narrator and the previous performance poetry of its celebrated author.
Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe plays the lead role of Precious, but the rest of the cast is almost all stars, including Mariah Carey as a social worker, Lenny Kravitz as a nurse, and, as Precious' all-sorts-of-hungry mother, Mo'Nique. Like the book, the movie is said to be highly stylized—very fast, even funny—and the cast is being praised for its gritty going-there.
Gaining the lion's share of hype: Mo'Nique, who gives an illuminating interview about the film and her role here.
Dear Push: As with Humpday, I cannot wait to see you.