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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Review: Push by Sapphire

Title: Push
Author: Sapphire
First Published: 1996
Publisher: Knopf
Source: Library | Recommendations from all corners of the blogging world | I read this for the POC Challenge
179 pages

In a nutshell
Sixteen-year-old Claireece Precious Jones is again pregnant. As if that is any fault of hers, she is kicked out of her school and her mother verbally assaults her for "stealing" her husband. She had her first child when she was twelve; the child itself a victim of Down's Syndrome. Then a teacher from her school begs her to attend a Higher Education Alternative / Each One Teach One school. This one gesture from the teacher sets the path for Precious' desire to be free of her mother's clutches and make her own path.

Several years ago, when I was still in high school and believed that although the world wasn't wholly good, it wasn't too bad either, I came across a news item of an eight-year old girl in a Middle East country, who was repeatedly raped by her father, and thus made pregnant as well. The news horrified and numbed me. Reading Push was, in a way, a huge reminder to me of that one incident, the one that probably stripped off the fancy glasses from my irises.

I think...
When I read how Precious' mother blamed her for having sex with her husband, I was enraged. There are many cultures where the woman is still blamed for a rape. Then it becomes a social stigma. Push especially brings out the victim's point of view very well. When her father rapes her, he calls her a lot of obscene words. When he thrusts himself into her, she is terribly guilty and confused about the feelings of pleasure that she gets. She doesn't want to enjoy it, and is ashamed of her body for betraying her.

When Precious starts alternative school, she just wants an education. When she sees that the other women with her in the class are as scarred as her, she feels hope for the first time in her life. She admires her teacher, Ms. Rain, and respects her ideas. The bonding she develops with Ms. Rain and the other students is very touching.

Precious starts off being unable to read and write. Under Rain's guidance, she transforms into an educated woman. This is especially evidenced by Precious' writings in her journal, whose pages are occasionally captured in Push. The very first words that Precious writes are:
li Mg o mi m
(Little Mongo on my mind)
By the end of Push, she has mastered basic English and started writing poems.

It is occasionally hard to believe that Precious is only sixteen. She shows the maturity of someone much older. Her first daughter, who she named Little Mongo because she has Down's Syndrome (Mongo is short for Mongoloid, an offensive word in itself, also used to refer to the eyes of a person with DS), is being cared for by her grandmother. Because of little awareness of the syndrome, Little Mongo does not receive any special treatment.

Push is a very powerful book written in a raw and nitty-gritty style. It is easy to read and not be affected by it. Being told mostly in first-person, it is a diary of Precious' thoughts. Along with all the goodness in her, you get exposed to her curses and a lot of the choicest words. Deep inside, her innocence and maturity are evident. Her love for her son, Abdul, feels so warm that the reader is happy that he was born, and then you feel guilty of that thought, remembering the circumstance under which he was born. Precious is also confused by the same conflicting emotions. I'd totally recommend this book. Although just under 200 pages, I took a long time to read it, because of the accent of the characters and also the rambling thoughts of Precious, that can sometimes be hard to follow.

Title Demystified
Although this book is about how one girl triumphs over her demons to get over her inhibitions, there is a lesson in it for everyone. At so many places, I could see how a little push can change your destiny one way or the other. What if that teacher had not begged Precious to attend alternative school? What if Precious was not infuriated with her mother? What if Precious never got pregnant but was still raped? Literally when Precious pushes during delivery, and figuratively when Precious pushes herself to learn, evidence of the persevering human spirit can be seen.

What did you think?
Have you read this book? I'd like to know what you thought about it. Please leave your review link in the comments, or a brief opinion, if you hadn't reviewed it.

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Nadia said…
Great post, Aths! I really did enjoy this book - not the subject matter because that was difficult to read about, but I enjoyed the use of words and the way we were able to be inside of Precious' mind. Such an important read!
bermudaonion said…
I have read this book and found it to be powerful and sad yet hopeful at the same time. You HAVE to see the movie version now.
Tales of Whimsy said…
Wow. What a review! While I don't have the heart to read this - I was very interested in learning more about this book. I knew I could count on you for an awesome honest review. Thank you. My heart broke a little just reading about her trials.
erisian said…
been itching to read this.

might need some mylanta though, heard from folks i know IRL that this will conflict very strongly with my personality. with strong social conviction comes the heartburn. then i get all emotional AND my stomach is torturous....

maybe i will put off reading it a little bit longer :)
Anonymous said…
Awesome review! I just recently watched Precious, and usually I'm one to run out and either read the book first or to read it right afterwards, but after learning of her tragic story, I think I would have a hard time reading the book. Maybe a few years down the road, I'll give it a try.
Aarti said…
Great review, Aths! I haven't read this one. I recently watched the movie, and I think the book would be even more painful and difficult for me to bear. Wow.
This is such a fantastic book! To be honest, I didn't get to finish the whole thing because I was borrowing it from someone, but I saw the movie afterwards. I loved it.
Anonymous said…
I haven't read this book yet, and I haven't seen the movie either. I expect them both to be amazing and painful. Sadly, sexual abuse -- especially of girls, is incredibly common, and it is not unusual for a mother to blame her daughter for what happened. :-( I am glad to hear about the hopeful direction of this novel!
Unknown said…
The movie was amazing. I can see how reading the book with the accents would be difficult. You really should see the movie. The acting was spectacular. Great review, Aths.
Lisa said…
Great review--I definitely need to read this.
Care said…
I keep thinking I want to read this before I see the movie. I actually had the movie netflixed but returned it so that I could get the book first.
Anonymous said…
I've heard so much about Precious, but yours is the first blog review I've read. I think I'll wait till I feel particularly courageous before beginning this.
Thanks for a great review!
Great review! This sounds like such an emotionally difficult read.
Unknown said…
Great review...I just reviewed this on my blog this week as well.

I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure I can say I "liked" it. How do you like a story that heartwrenching, though ultimately empowering?
Athira said…
Nadia, I loved the writing as well. I know many people found that hard, but I appreciated reading it in Precious' speaking style.

Kathy, thanks! I have requested the movie! It should come in soon. :)

Juju, my heart broke during every minute of reading the book. I am glad you could find my review useful.

Erisian, awww, you really should read this! The stomach upsets and emotional rollercoasters are all worthy of it.

JessiKay, I can imagine that! I've just requested the movie as well, not sure how I will sit through that.

Aarti, the book is very emotional to read. I'll be watching the movie soon, not sure how I'll sit through it.

Emidy, I wish you got to finish the book. The last few pages of the book has a collection of writing of the various students of that school.

Stephanie, it is sad that sexual abuse is all too common. Sadder that parents blame the victim.

Lynne, I have just requested the movie on netflix. :) I can't wait to see that!

Lisa, I hope you will like it too, Lisa.

Care, I think it is good that you are reading before watching the movie. I think the reverse will be a bit hard.

Niranjana, you're welcome! I hope you will read this book.

Jen, it was hard to read but I'm glad I gave it a try.
Athira said…
Heather, I have that confusion sometimes. How do you say you "liked" a book that was mainly serious and sad matter?