Sapphire is the author of American Dreams, a collection of poetry
which was cited by "Publishers Weekly" as, "One of the strongest
debut collections of the nineties." Push, her novel, 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 the "Village Voice" and "Time Out 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 most recent 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." In February of 2007 Arizona State University presented "PUSHing Boundaries, PUSHing Art: A Symposium on the Works of Sapphire." Sapphire's work has been translated into eleven languages and has been adapted for stage in the United States and Europe. "Precious," the film adaption of her novel, recently won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance (2009).
A first novel by a highly touted African American poet will have an ambitious 150,000-copy first printing.
With this much anticipated first novel, told from the point of view of an illiterate, brutalized Harlem teenager, Sapphire (American Dreams), a writer affiliated with the Nuyorican poets, charts the psychic damage of the most ghettoized of inner-city inhabitants. Obese, dark-skinned, HIV-positive, bullied by her sexually abusive mother, Clareece, Precious Jones is, at the novel's outset, pregnant for the second time with her father's child. (Precious had her first daughter at 12, named Little Mongo, "short for Mongoloid Down Sinder, which is what she is; sometimes what I feel I is. I feel so stupid sometimes. So ugly, worth nuffin.") Referred to a pilot program by an unusually solicitous principal, Precious comes under the experimental pedagogy of a lesbian miracle worker named, implausibly enough, Blue Rain. Under her angelic mentorship, Precious, who has never before experienced real nurturing, learns to voice her long suppressed feelings in a journal. As her language skills improve, she finds sustenance in writing poetry, in friendships and in support groups-one for "insect" survivors and one for HIV-positive teens. It is here that Sapphire falters, as her slim and harrowing novel, with its references to Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes and The Color Purple (a parallel the author hints at again and again), becomes a conventional, albeit dark and unresolved, allegory about redemption. The ending, composed of excerpts from the journals of Precious's classmates, lends heightened realism and a wider scope to the narrative, but also gives it a quality of incompleteness. Sapphire has created a remarkable heroine in Precious, whose first-person street talk is by turns blisteringly savvy, rawly lyrical, hilariously pig-headed and wrenchingly vulnerable. Yet that voice begs to be heard in a larger novel of more depth and complexity. 150,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker; audio rights to Random; foreign rights sold to England, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Brazil. (June)
"You feel you've witnessed nothing less than the birth of a soul."
"Affecting and impassioned. . . . Sails on the strength of pure, stirring feeling." --"The New York Times Book Review"
"A fascinating novel that may well find a place in the African-American literary canon. . . . With a fresh new voice that echoes the streets, Sapphire's work is sure to win as many hearts as it disturbs minds." --"Philadelphia Inquirer"
"A horrific, hope-filled story [that is] brilliant, blunt, merciless." --"Newsday"
"Brutal, redemptive. . . . You just can't take your eyes off Precious Jones." --"Newsweek"
"A stunningly frank effort that marks the emergence of an immensely promising writer." --"Los Angeles Times Book Review"
"[Sapphire] writes with a poet's ear for rhythms, in a voice that pushes her story relentlessly into your mind." --"Interview"
"Push . . . develops so richly and fearlessly that one cannon resist its power." --"Elle"
"Precious's story, told through her own unique style and spelling, is a major achievement. It documents a remarkable resilience of spirit." --"Boston Globe"
"To read the story [is] magic. . . . [It is] paint-peelingly profane and thoroughly real." --Washington Post