The harrowing but uplifting story of an abused teenager in Harlem, adapted into the 2010 Oscar-winning film, Precious
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.
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)
A first novel by a highly touted African American poet will have an ambitious 150,000-copy first printing.
"An inspired and inspiring debut, a The Color Purple for the nineties" * Vogue *
"Sapphire's vibrant, unindulgent first novel has you cheering the awesome Precious on until the last page: her voice is true and the book is cool" * Mail on Sunday *
"A harrowing but ultimately uplifting book which stays in the mind long after the final page" * Daily Telegraph *
"A powerful cri de coeur, part wishful prayer, part manifesto, mingling poetry and humour...her novel, while heavily weighted with adversity, is buoyant, cresting wave after voluble wave of splendid, turbulent, bracing language...its voice demands attention, perseverance and concentration, then its music takes you over, its story grips, its current and undercurrents mesmerise, depress and then uplift... A voice to remember" * Scotland on Sunday *
"Harrowing yet hilarious...packs a powerful punch... The powerful writing makes the book a cracking read... A tour de force" * Guardian *