February 25, 2009
Gabourey Sidibe as Precious Claireece Jones in Push.I first read Push a couple of years back when author Sapphire, under the alias "Zora," started showing up to my writers' workshop in Park Slope. She had been longtime friends with our workshop leader, Sister Bisi, and had a penchant for crafting award-worthy poetry in five minutes or less.

Sapphire has an innate facility with words; she can turn the darkest, dreariest circumstances and emotions into pure poetry. A true -- and, likely, born -- writer. And a former dancer. And pretty, her closely-cropped natural highlighting a perfectly shaped dome and a delicate nose ring. She was a lot of other things, too; made me wish that looking at her was seeing a reflection of myself twenty years from now, nose ring and all. But back to her book.

Having written alongside Sapphire in workshop, I felt somewhat prepared when I bought my copy of Push, siren red with bold, black letters running lengthwise down the cover. It evoked a sense of urgency that made me open it up on the subway ride home -- and not put it down until I had finished digesting the brutal reality of child abuse and incest Precious suffered.

When I heard Lee Daniels had gotten his hands on it and was making a film, I almost threw up -- conjuring the sensationalized, self-annihilating drama that was Halle Berry in Monster's Ball. I was certain that the story would be exploited for its savagery, the subtleties of Precious's strength and resilience glossed over for cinematic effect. I only hoped that, since she'd sold the rights, Sapph was on board with the project.

Fast forward to the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Festival '09 and I couldn't be happier Daniels chose it. Some people just know how to make ugly pretty. And we can't help but watch them do it.

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