Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sapphire at ALOUD series

When I opened up Sapphire's book Push (the novel that the movie Precious is based upon), the only reason I put it down was when the imagery and the darkness of the novel got so overwhelming that I needed a break.  The book has so much power in its pages and beauty in its honesty.  Being able to see and hear the author of Push discuss her work, and eventually meeting and having my book signed by her, is a joy that I'll try to describe.  ...and did I mention this moment was free?

Brighde Mullins, Director of USC's Master of Professional Writing Program, (a program of which this blogger discloses that she is also a proud alumna) interviewed Sapphire as a guest in the ALOUD at Central Library series.  This series is presented by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and features lectures, readings, performances, and conversations with pivotal figures.  Mullins stated in the interview that Sapphire had agreed to speak to the students at the MPW program, but they thought it best that she be shared with the rest of Los Angeles.

...and I'm glad that decision was made.

Mullins' interview style was a mix of biographical questions and direct references to Push.  The attending audience learned that Sapphire is an artist with a vibrant personality who actually has roots in California, but became an artist in the East Coast.  She indicated that the Los Angeles she knew of when she left California was very different from the one that we have now.  She described the Los Angeles then of being "very stratified by class and race."

Push came from a time when she had a grant that allowed her the flexibility to produce the work.  She discussed the universality of the Precious character, discussing how often different people approached her, claiming how much the Precious character represented them.  One of my favorite quotes of the evening that came out of this discussion (which I mentioned on experiencela twitter) was "We have all suffered. If we get trapped in our own victimization, we lose out on the connections."

There was much discussion between the novel and the film Precious.  Sapphire disclosed that she had been approached by Lee Daniels before, but hadn't seen his work and wasn't sure he was the right fit.   She stated, "It wasn't until I saw his work [that I realized] he would not back away from this material." 

One of the many joys of the evening came from hearing Sapphire read from Push.  There's something about hearing an author read their own work - having already experienced and consumed those words on a different level as a reader - that has always been rather amazing to me.  There's a connectivity to the words that wasn't there before.  

It's programs like the ALOUD series that really enables a person to experience those kinds of connectivity - to reveal an artist alongside their work, to bring conversation where there was only something to subjectively assess, to make something a human experience.  

Most of the ALOUD programming is free, but make sure to put in your reservations.  For more event options with the series, visit the ALOUD listings on

-Charity Tran

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