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Posted on Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Novelist Sapphire (Push/Precious) to speak at U of M for MLK Day

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Thumbnail image for Sapphire Movie Poster 2.jpg

I want to see the movie, Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, but I am afraid. I request the book from the Ann Arbor District Library, but I am too afraid to even peel back the routing sticker that holds its pages closed. I show the trailer to my teenage children, knowing they are too young to handle the real movie, and I cry every time.

Now the author, Sapphire, is coming as part of the University of Michigan’s MLK Day Symposium to talk about “Push, Literacy, Women, and African American Literature.” It seems I cannot escape the change I know awaits me there.

In addition to writing for, I also write for New America Media, which has been described as “the AP of the ethnic press.” One of New America Media’s many strengths is capturing the voices of America’s ethnic youth, who sometimes see things so much more clearly than we old people do. Here is a moving review of the movie, Precious, published last November in New America Media’s Ethnoblog:

Precious is About Women I Know

By Jean Melasaine

When I saw the trailer for the new film "Precious" I cried. This film made me think a lot about an old life I was too familiar with. It made me think about a lot of women that I am close to. It made me think about my sister in her Tenderloin days, about that loud funny girl in class that smacked her gum too loud, about that girl in West Point who had AIDS and everyone stayed away from her, about that girl walking up and down Folsom pretending she has somewhere to go, about that teacher I used to have a crush on in middle school, about women. "Precious" women. This was their story. (Click here for whole article)

Here is the information about Sapphire’s talk from the University of Michigan Libraries. Should be really interesting:

Push, Literacy, Women, and African American Literature”

January 18, 2010 2:00 pm
Location: Michigan Union Ballroom
Speaker: Sapphire

MLibrary welcomes you to a presentation by the award-winning poet, author, and educator, Sapphire. Author of several books of poetry, Sapphire’s work has been published in The Black Scholar, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Teacher’s Voice, The New Yorker, Spin, and Bomb.

“Precious,” the film adaptation of Sapphire’s bestselling novel "Push," recently won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Lee Daniels and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, “Precious” is widely anticipated to be an Oscar-contender. Push tells the story of Claireece “Precious” Jones, an overweight African-American teenager struggling to find her place in the world despite her history of incest, abuse and illiteracy. Sapphire received numerous awards for Push, including the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, Book-of-the Month Club.

Sapphire’s poetry, fiction and essays have been translated into 11 different languages and her work has been adapted for the stage in several countries. She worked with literacy students in Harlem and the Bronx, and has taught writing and poetry workshops at a number of schools, including SUNY Purchase, Trinity College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Brooklyn College, the New School University and the Writer’s Voice in New York City.

This event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the University Library. Cosponsored by the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, University Housing, Bentley Historical Library, Law Library, and the School of Information.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang will be keynote speaker at the One World One Family 2010 Community Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, January 18, 7pm, Washington Street Education Center, 500 Washington Street, Chelsea, Michigan.