The Terrifying Reality of Abuse and Neglect in Sapphire's The Kid

BlogHer Review

Grueling. Shocking. Heart-wrenching. Intense and unrelenting. This is Saphhire's The Kid. This follow-up book to Push, which many of us know as the movie Precious, follows the life of a young Abdul Jones, after his mother, Precious, has died of AIDS.

This book is not for the faint of heart or easily offended. People have asked me what this book is REALLY about, and I’ve told them so many things: poverty, the child welfare system, generational sexual abuse, child perpetrators, sexual identity, suicide, murder, mental illness. Pick one. Sapphire tackles them all explicitly and frantically in this twisted tale of the life of Abdul Jones.

Nothing shocks me anymore. As a former child welfare caseworker and presently as an inner-city school teacher, I’ve seen it all. I know Abdul. I’ve known a few Abduls. And I would whole-heartedly encourage anyone who’s never been to “that part of town” or interacted with families and people who our society deem the lowest of the low to read this book. It is sad. It is shocking. It is the in-your-face reality of what poverty and neglect (by both family and the government) can wreak on people’s lives for generations.

Much of the narrative takes place inside Abdul’s thoughts. At first these jumbled, seemingly incoherent and unrelated thoughts don’t seem to make sense and make for a tougher read. But soon you realize Abdul’s broken thoughts are exact representations of his broken mind and his broken life. And these thoughts take you further into the psyche of a child, and eventually a young man, whose life and mind and body have been scarred by years of abuse and neglect.

The only thing that I was not enthralled in by this book was the ending. It was a little confusing, and of course could be seen as a metaphor for Abdul’s madness -- but nothing is resolved. And that’s probably the point. These stories, these lives, are never wrapped up in pretty packaging and tied up with neat little bows. But I was hoping for more of a definite resolution to the story, be it negative or positive. And I don’t feel like I got it.

Yes, this book is full of sexually explicit and terrifying language. But the language Sapphire uses is absolutely appropriate in describing the reality of what her characters are experiencing. The language contributes an exact harshness to the reading experience that mirrors the painful and life-altering experiences of her characters. So be aware of this when you buy the book. And buy the book, you must. It’s a study in child abuse and neglect. It’s a study of human nature, mental illness, and evil. It makes you want to hope, but doesn’t quite let you go there. And it’s a must read.

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