Sapphire: The Interview

Her wildly controversial novel, Push, became an Oscar-nominated movie. She talks to The Root about her new novel, why the New York Times is wrong and why she killed Precious.

Courtesy of Clark Atlanta University
Courtesy of Clark Atlanta University

As with most Oprah-certified, book-to-film adaptations, Precious drummed up the kind of anticipation you can’t pay for — unless your name is Tyler Perry. The two teamed up to executive-produce the critically acclaimed film in 2009, slinging Sapphire, the author of Push, the wildly controversial 1996 book on which the film is based, back into the national spotlight.

Now, cruising on the current of a re-established notoriety, Sapphire has released her second book, The Kid. The gritty novel chronicles the life of Abdul, Precious’ son from her incestuous relationship with her father. As with Push, this book offers no shortage of I-can’t-read-anymore moments: Abdul kissing the lips of his dead mother after she loses her battle with AIDS, his grueling travels through a neglectful foster-care system and the abuse that follows, and his own dreams and urges of molesting young boys.

“The thing about The Kid is this isn’t an easy text,” Sapphire told The Root. “It’s not a romance novel; you can’t just breeze through it.”

Sapphire, keen on using her work to tell the “profound and devastating effects of AIDS,” is never shy about using vivid, harsh — and maybe crass — language to convey the social realities that plague the black community.

One day after the official release of the book, Sapphire spoke with The Root about Abdul’s complicated character, who she hopes will play Abdul in a film and what she thinks of the New York Times’ biting review of The Kid.

The Root: Why did you kill Precious? 

Sapphire: I’m a social realist in terms of writing. African-American women who were diagnosed with AIDS at the time that Push was written were 10 times more likely than upper-class, gay white men to die in the first couple months of diagnosis. So Precious couldn’t survive. One of the reasons I wrote Push was to show how precious — ha, ha — these kids might be if given the opportunity to live.

TR: You say that The Kid is not a sequel to Push? 

S: It is Abdul’s book. The sequel thing is just a marketing thing. It is only a sequel in a sense that it touches on HIV/AIDS. Abdul’s mother could have been anybody, anywhere. But this is his book.