Novelist and performance poet Sapphire, author of The New York Times’ bestseller “Push,” the story of a brutalized, pregnant Harlem teen that became the Oscar-winning movie “Precious,” will speak at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, on Thursday, April 4.
Sapphire plans to address issues of adversity and empowerment in her Speaker Series presentation, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the McGarvey Commons of the college’s Reed Union Building. Admission is free and open to the public.
Born Ramona Lofton, Sapphire was a fixture in New York City’s ʼ80s-era slam poetry scene.
Library Journal has called her work “spiky and uncompromising” and described her as a “poet of slick-talking, nearly hallucinatory riffs on growing up poor, tough and black in America.”
“Push,” Sapphire’s first novel, is told in the voice of Claireece “Precious” Jones, an obese, illiterate 16-year-old carrying her second child by own father. The book’s honors include the Book-of-the-Month Club Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association’s First Novelist Award, and in Great Britain, the Mind Book of the Year Award. It also was named one of The Village Voice’s top ten books of 1996.
In 2011, Sapphire published “The Kid,” a sequel to “Push.” The second novel begins with Precious’ death from complications of HIV infection and picks up the story of Abdul, her 9-year-old son. The victim of abuse, Abdul eventually becomes a victimizer. “There is a cycle of abuse that is very much above water, and then there’s another area of the cycle that is very much hidden,” Sapphire said in an NPR interview about the book. “That’s part of what I wanted to bring out in the text.”
This Speaker Series event is made possible by Penn State Behrend’s Student Activity Fee, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Harriet Behrend Ninow Memorial Lecture Series Fund. For additional information, contact the Office of Student Activities at 814-898-6171.