PREFACE: If this is your first trip to my blog, I write a lot of transgressive fiction and my blog posts are resources for other transgressive writers. I offer book reviews, transgressive topics for inspiration, research on social change, and creative writing techniques. The review below is meant to explore this novel as a (YA) transgressive fiction text. Welcome!
Last week, I wrote about Young Adult Transgressive Fiction — texts that fall under the YA category, but simultaneously have characteristics of transgressive fiction. Thinking more about it though, YA transgressive fiction books are more closely related to what I call mild transgressive fiction (a text that breaks some norms, but is not focused on making a political statement through the norm breaking). This is just because transgressive fiction seems to be so much transgression and criticism that that’s the whole point of the book, making it a genre that stands on its own, and I’m not sure the transgressive fiction of the YA world completely fits under that… It does question norms and exposes them though.
Push by Sapphire 100% falls somewhere in being a YA book and addressing the socially unacceptable. Claireece “Precious” Jones is a teen who deals with sexual abuse from her father, physical and verbal abuse from her mother, as well as the judgement from a society that doesn’t know her story. She unfortunately can’t read or write which just adds to the mountain of adversity she faces.
Precious gets bullied in school, does not speak up (because of her illiteracy), and is thought of as the bad and stupid kid. She gets pushed out and ends up joining an alternative school, much to the dismay of her mother who doesn’t leave the house and continues to abuse Precious. Precious’s dad has raped her and gotten her pregnant, twice, and her mother calls her a slut, clearly jealous of Precious (in some weird, twisted way).
While disgusting and difficult at times, this is a book that needed to be written. People need to be reminded that this behavior happens in the real world and that there are girls who are forced deal with this.
Precious wants more for her two kids than the life they were born into. She works hard at the alternative school she joins and finds a group of other girls in her class who become a support system to her, one that she never had before. Through learning to read and write and reflect, she learns more about herself and what she’s capable of.
Further tragedy happens to Precious, which was hard for me as a reader because I was rooting for her. She doesn’t let this stop her newfound outlook on life though, which is the best we can hope for in this situation.
The book is written from Precious’s point of view, taking on the writing of someone who is illiterate. As her writing improves over time through school, the book becomes easier to read as well. The writing, paired with the detailed descriptions of incest and abuse make some of the book difficult to read, but as someone who reads transgressive fiction, it didn’t stop me. Even though it’s similar to the book Tampa in that the plot is difficult, I consider this to be a strength of the book — these things happen in real life, don’t get talked about enough, but were very blatantly placed on the table here in Push.
While the content that can be challenging to read, this is what makes the novel a YA transgressive fiction piece, no doubt in my mind. Exposing the dark sides of humanity (horrific ways little girls are sometimes treated), this book tackles multiple transgressive topics through the story of a young adult. The way in which this story can be relatable for young adults also furthers this concept.
For anyone interested in transgressive fiction, I would recommend this book. It has a hopeful end to it, but it makes you earn your way there by traveling through dark, difficult paths first. It brings you to corners of horrific realities which are arguably worse than the imaginary scenarios used to fight against norms in a book like Fight Club.
I’m curious, for those of you that have read Push — what about the book makes it YA? What about the book do you think makes it transgressive?