With Oscar time approaching I remember the 2010 Oscar race when the film Precious, based on the young adult novel Push, was a best picture nominee. The Hurt Locker in fact won that year, but in my view the Oscar should have gone to Precious.
Years before the film adaption was made, the African American poet Sapphire who wrote Push came to speak to students at Jane Addams, the south Bronx high school where I was then the librarian. Push had been widely translated and Sapphire had just returned from a European book tour and she told us about a moving experience she had.
In a Scandinavian city, I think it was Stockholm, she had been invited to a dramatized reading of the book. She arrived expecting to see a black actress in the role of Precious and was surprised to see a petite blue-eyed blonde take the stage. The young woman then went on to give a heart-rendering performance.
After the reading Sapphire congratulated the young actress and asked how she was able to so convincingly portray a poor, horribly abused black teenager living half a world away.
“Because you see”, the actress replied, “her life story is very much like mine.”
Dana Susan Lehrman