Hey look! It’s me and my book in the Barnes & Noble in Emeryville, CA. I’m stoked that it’s shelved next to Frank Portman’s fabulous new book Andromeda Klein (although the person who shelved them apparently needs an alphabet refresher because, the last time I checked, R does not come before P.)
Brian and I popped in to the store before seeing the movie “Precious,” based on one of my all-time favorite books, Push by Sapphire. All I can say is Wow. I don’t think I was breathing for most of the film. If you’ve read the book, then you’re prepared for how disturbing and painful it is. But there’s something about seeing it on the big screen that makes it hurts even more. I guess when you’re reading, your mind has a certain freedom to imagine a scene however it wants or needs to. I think when I read Push, I was more focused on the narrator’s emotional experience rather than visualizing all of the horrible things she described. But watching a movie, you have no choice. It’s in your face and you’re forced to look at it.
Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t see the film. Not at all. Just be prepared. Believe me, as much as it hurt to watch, it was done artfully and tastefully. There is nothing gratuitous about the violence; it needed to be shown because it is Precious’s reality. It would have been wrong to sugarcoat it to make it more palatable. That would be a disservice to her and her story.
I was really moved by how many families were there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many parents and teen children at a movie together. As I was leaving, I overheard the teen girl in front of me say “I’m so glad you’re my mom” as she put her arm around her mother and nuzzled her head on her shoulder. The mom squeezed her back, and I saw the tears in her eyes as she whispered, “I love you, baby,” and I almost lost it.
I could start pontificating about the social and political power and responsibility of art and artists, but I’ll spare you. Let me just say that, leaving that movie, I felt like I was part of a profound shared cultural experience, that I was surrounded by a few hundred people whose lives had just been changed. I walked out of that theatre, one of many strangers whose hearts had just been opened a little wider. And I am grateful.