I was introduced to the character of Precious Jones, created by the singularly named Sapphire, through the film adaptation of her novel Push (titled Precious in its screen form). This was one movie that did not make me want to read the book, not because I didn’t like it, but because the story was pretty harrowing. I don’t think issues such as those brought up by Push should be ignored (sexual abuse, child neglect, HIV), but as you can imagine, it was quite difficult to put myself in Precious’s shoes, which no doubt was part of the point.
When I realised Sapphire had written a follow up, named The Kid, I was interested in reading it and following the life of Precious’s son. I would consider myself in this situation to be a reader with no preconceptions of the characters portrayed, and no detailed background knowledge of American politics, or of the issues faced by a character like Precious. But in my efforts to broaden my knowledge and find out more, I came across this interview with Sapphire about The Kid, and I have to say, it has in its own way put me off somewhat.
Her answers to the questions give the distinct impression that she has no qualms over pigeon holing certain sections of society and has little care over who this might be offensive to. I’m not saying she isn’t entitled to her opinion or that she hasn’t done her research, and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t express herself (she certainly knows how to articulate her opinions through her writing and in no way does this one-sidedness make her a bad writer). But the sweeping generalisations seen here, covering entire cultures, seems more judgemental than insightful to me. Hopefully the sentiments behind her powerfully written novels won’t be overshadowed by this. But if the comments below this interview are anything to go by, this doesn’t seem to be the best way to win readers.