Another day, another opportunity to play the race card. This time it comes from the author of the best-selling book Push which was the inspiration for the Oscar winning film Precious. In an interview with The Voice newspaper Sapphire said that people often though that Precious was based on her own life, she said that this view was not only wrong but it was racist.
Set in 1987, Push tells the story of an illiterate teenager called Claireece ‘Precious’ Jones who was sexually and physically abused by her parents. It explores issues such as incest, racial identity and AIDS.
The 61 year-old said that she did a lot of research to create the fictional character Precious and is extremely offended by the fact that people assume that she was the obese 17 year-old who had had two children by her father.
She said, “People thought I was Precious – as if I’m not old enough to be Precious’s grandmother. And as if I didn’t spend a year teaching and researching in order to make that book. It’s as though people can’t imagine there being an African American equivalent to [William] Faulkner or [Charles] Dickens; like we can’t be imaginative enough or be capable enough to write such a story unless it’s our own story. That’s out and out racist.
“Like I’m some little urchin who recorded my story by talking into a tape recorder and then these white people found me and decided to help me tell my story. That kind of thinking denies us [black writers] our intellectual development.”
She goes on to say that she is not taking anything away from the use of first-person narrative for she believes that it is the basis African-American literature.
Firstly, I think it’s just a tad arrogant to compare oneself to literature greats like William Faulkner and Charles Dickens and secondly shouldn’t she take it as a compliment that people thought the fictional character was real? A good book should always create a world that you literally feel like you’re living in, that’s what Push did. I thought that the language and style of Precious’ narrative was very believable, wasn’t that the effect she was going for in the first place? To me that sounds like a compliment.
I think this is just another case of black people being over-sensitive, I’m still struggling to see the correlation between assuming Sapphire is Precious and thinking that African-American writers are not imaginative enough to write stories let alone the accusation of racism.
Maybe it’s just me, what do you think of Saphire’s comments? Are her assumptions justified? Share your thoughts!by