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Push is a novel written by Sapphire White about the tough life of a poor, HIV positive, African American, 16 year old girl named Claireece Precious Jones. The novel is a commentary by an angry Precious about her down struggles. She has to cope with a series of devastating conditions. She grew up in below poverty conditions. At 12, as a result of incest by her father, she has a baby. Precious suffers verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from her parents. At 16, Precious was impregnated by her father again. For this, her junior high school administrator sends her to an alternative school where she meets Ms.Rain. Ms.Rain genuinely cares about her. She asserts her that she should not give up and helps her develop. Her classmates and Ms.Rain are nice to her and they quickly bond. With the inspiration, she slowly progresses to a better mother, and student. The support from everyone boosted her self-worth. Eventually, her life changed for better.
After getting raped by her father, Precious’ mother does not help her. Instead, she hauls her withal sorts of abuses for ‘stealing her husband. She openly conveys to her that she is worthless. Precious suffers lack of reactivity, as a result of her mother’s insults. To be less vulnerable, she consciously, becomes numb to her feelings. Children need to communicate their feelings freely and safely. Precious stuffed down all her emotions and feelings. The buildup turns her into a budding wild girl.
The school deprives her of educational advancement when she gets left behind. She cannot read or write like her classmates. Instead of helping her, they abandon her. This makes Precious feel ignored. Her ignorance seriously damages her self esteem. She feels like she is not skilled at anything. Her low self confidence makes her doubt her abilities and wish she were dead.
Her father ruthlessly rapes her and gets her pregnant twice. The repeated sexual abuse from her father affects her emotional well-being. Precious suffers the indignity involved and feels damaged. The poor child suffers from stress. The painful memories torment her. Parents are supposed to protect their children to help them trust they are cared for. Precious’ trust is damaged by being abused by her family at a tender age. The situations at home tamper with her education constantly. Precious does not get her emotional needs met at home. Children need loving physical contacts like hugs from their parents. However, Precious is emotionally disconnected from her parents. This affects her social and psychological development tremendously. Precious conceals it but it lashes out in her extreme behaviors like eating too much. A child should be provided with adequate basic needs like food, clothes and shelter. Precious had to adapt to lack of necessities and have to live in a poor neighborhood. The parents should also ensure that the child’s educational needs are met. Unfortunately, Precious’ mother and father were busy doing the opposite. They were busy abusing her and making it practically impossible to keep up with school.
It is very easy to abuse precious because she suffers in silence. By law, she was incapable of providing consent when her father raped her. Had she blown the whistle the first time her father raped her, it probably would have stopped it at that. Precious does not share her misfortunes with anyone. Her mother too is to blame. She watches her daughter get raped by her husband and does nothing about it. Knowing that he can always walk away with it, her father makes it a habit. Even on witnessing the rape, she blames her daughter instead of the husband for the act. Precious being a young and naïve girl does what she knows best; dealing with it in silence. Her mother’s abuse was more than a motherly punishment. It was way over the hook. Precious should have reported it to the relevant authority in time before it got worse. She is neglected by her school and keeps it to herself again. Precious bares all that physical and mental pain. She walks with the shame and takes the blame for it. They all take advantage of her silence. All the other people did not notice precious was being abused because they ignored her. They assumed her problems to be typical of a poor, fat, and black girl. It is normal that she should be angry, low self-esteemed and likely to get pregnant young.
Besides, outsiders tend to shy from meddling into other people’s business. Investigating what happens in Precious’ family is equivalent to ‘meddling into other people’s businesses. Though, Ms.Rain should have been able to identify that precious was being abused. She was a very concerned teacher and concentrated on each student on a personal level. She should have read the signs of abuse Precious showed when she first arrived in her class. Being a keen teacher, she should have paid closer attention to her behavior and dug deeper for reasons why she was the way she was. Precious was an angry, self-loathing and below average student. Ms.Rain was in a position to find out the truth. Being educated, she would have identified that Precious had troubles at home. A simple routine follow up would then, have revealed the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She then would have reported the parents and helped precious get help. Any other outsider should have easily identified she was being abused had they cared enough about Precious. Then, they should have paid closer attention to her and offered her a shoulder to lean on.
One of the dominant child abuse theories in this book is social learned theory. Precious is a child abuse victim. Her mother is very aggressive and angry. Her father is reckless and aggressive too. It is funny how much Precious is similar to her parents. She has observed, fallen victim of and learned their aggression. She is bitter and gets physical with another student when she calls her ‘fat’. She acquires the physical abuse she receives from home and portrays it in school. The pattern forms a ‘violence cycle’.
One of the issues present in both Sapphire and Wallace’s book is feminism. The books are based on gender. Push recounts the feminist struggle of a young girl. Wallace and Sapphire are feminist writers. Wallace explores the roles and rights of daughters and motherhood in her publication. Her book is a strong force in feminist circles.
In both books, racism is prevalent. Sapphire criticizes Black Nationalism tremendously. Push explains how a black girl’s life is harder than a white girl’s. The book inspires new critical thinking about the lives of black women. Wallace’s work incites black power. It confronts matters in a black community. Both books empower black women. Unfortunately, critics complain of how they tarnish the black man’s reputation. He is put forward as irresponsible and unfair to the black women.
The most important lessons learnt from the book is, such extreme cases as that of Precious do happen. It is totally possible for child abuse to directly, and indirectly, or knowingly, and unknowingly happen in families. Most families conceal the issues in the name of ‘personal family issues’. Both girls and boys can be victims of the child abuse from their own fathers and mothers. It is important to educate the society about child abuse. Families need to be educated on what child abuse is and its effects. Children need to be informed of child abuse and guided on what to do in case of occurrence. Neighbors need to pay attention and act on their suspicion or witness of a child abuse case. Teachers as well should pay attention to their students on a personal level. They need to be on the outlook if any child conveys the effects of child abuse at school. Everyone needs to know how to seek help or report a child abuse case they suspect or witness. If a report is filled as soon as possible, the habit can be stopped before severe damage is caused. Prevention is better than cure.