Sapphire's Kid Tells the Truth

BlogHer Review

“Life can work out for the best sometimes. Ms. Rain love The Color Purple too but say realism has its virtues too... I don’t know what realism mean, but I do know what REALITY is and it’s a muther____ I tell you.”

-- Sapphire, Push

When we open the pages of a book, the author reaches out her hand and invites us on a journey.

Sometimes the journey is entertaining, sometimes it is educational and sometimes it is realistic.

The Kid by Sapphire is the latter: an honest portrayal of a life that is uncomfortable, raw and utterly hopeless.

Abdul Jones, the kid, is Precious’s son, the heroine of Sapphire’s highly acclaimed first novel, Push. Jones is too mean, tough, and unsympathetic for us to root for him, yet we are unable to avert our eyes as he endures sexual abuse and subsequently becomes an abuser himself.

Deep down we want him to break out of his circumstances, to pull himself together, and learn from his mistakes. We also keep waiting for a savior to fly in and set Jones free of his bleak circumstances. Unfortunately every would-be savior that enters his life has an ulterior motive.

The Kid is about the truth, and the truth is that many victims of abuse suffer lifelong setbacks such as disassociation, aggressiveness and often start the cycle of abuse over again.

“Miz Rain say she read the truth shall set you free; say she not sure she believe it herself.”

-- Push

After his mother from dies from AIDS, Jones is put into foster care where he is immediately assaulted by an older boy. After he suffers a concussion from the repeated blows, he is moved to a Catholic orphanage for boys where he is taken under the wings of Jesuit brothers who embrace his academic giftedness but break his trust by sexually molesting him.

About halfway through the book, so bad is the sexual abuse, both being received and given, it would be easy to close The Kid and never open it again. After all, we want to see Jones grow up and liberate himself from his dreadful fate.

Sapphire provides us with enough redemption, however, with her poetic writing and Jones’s stream-of-consciousness dreams, that we do not feel stuck in hell, but in a place somewhere between Jones’s imagination and reality.

The slightest glimmer of hope we are given is that Jones reveals that someday he would like kids of his own. And though he has a difficult time remembering that later in the book when he is older and is even more jaded, Jones hears his mother’s voice early on reminding him, “mommy’s little boy gonna be something one day. I am a normal boy... I am a boy... I am intelligent.”

In addition, Jones, like his mother did in Push, is able to express himself through art, which, in his case, is dance.

“The part that I totally ID’d with was how dancing gave you a life in the middle of the abuse,” Jones tells his girlfriend after she reads a piece of her writing recounting her own abuse.

Though The Kid is a harrowing journey through abuse, social injustice, the suffering that each generation passes on to the next, and the saving graces of art; without a doubt, it is a journey worth taking.

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