Sapphire's The Kid: Difficult To Read, Difficult Not To
Precious was one of the most talked about movies of 2009. It was a box office success. It won awards at Sundance at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. It received six Academy Award nominations and won two.
But I haven't seen it yet. Nor have I read Push, the book that Precious is based on. The story of a poor, obese, illiterate, pregnant, HIV-positive teenager seemed just too depressing for words. I'm a fantasy reader, not a reality reader, and I like books that make me feel good, not sad. Oh, I fully intend to watch and/or read it, eventually. Too many critics and viewers have raved about it for me to ignore. I just need to work myself up to these things.
But fate -- or rather, BlogHer -- stepped in and handed me a copy of The Kid, author Sapphire's second novel, which continues a few years after Push ends. I put myself on my city library's waiting list for Push so I could read the novels in the correct order. But I made the mistake of opening The Kid and reading the first few pages. Then I couldn't put it down -- even though I really , really wanted to.
Everything I didn't want to feel when reading the first book, I felt when reading the second. Horror. Revulsion. Pity. Admiration. Respect. The Kid is the story of Sapphire's son, Abdul, who, at the start of the book, is nine years old. And motherless. Yes, the book opens at Precious' funeral, and Adbul's life all goes down from there. It's a difficult book to read, literally -- Sapphire writes using Abdul's stream of consciousness, complete with grammatical errors, swearing, ranting and frequent lapses into fantasy, so it's difficult to distinguish between what's happening in his mind and in reality. It's also difficult to read because Adbul is the poster child for everything that's awful about urban poverty, the foster care system, and child-abusing priests, and my heart breaks for him. He has suffered abuse (physical, sexual, emotional), poverty and neglect. He's full of denial about his situation, but deep down inside he knows he's ended up with the short end of the stick, so he's angry. Very angry. But just like his mother, Abdul is a fighter. He finds a way out of the hole through his passion and talent for dance, and you can't but help cheer Abdul on as he struggles to make something of himself.
Thanks to The Kid, I think I'm ready to read Push now. In the end, it didn't matter that I had read The Kid before reading Push. The Kidd is not the continuation of Push, it is a story that stands on its own. It's a story that made me take a deep breath after reading it, thank my lucky stars and count my blessings.
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