Sapphire, author of the novel “Push”

When noted author Sapphire started speaking Monday night, the crowd of more than 600 people quickly settled down. They sat riveted for more than an hour in the crowded Century Rooms at the Millennium Student Center at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

Sapphire came to tell the story of Precious Jones, the character Sapphire created for her novel “Push.” It’s the same character featured in the Oscar-nominated movie, “Precious.” The gut-wrenching, gritty story chronicles the life of a 16-year-old obese, illiterate girl, the victim of sexual, physical and emotional abuse from both parents. Sapphire read from her book, from her favorite authors’ books, from the unedited version of a recent letter to the New York Times.

And she recalled her days as a remedial reading teacher in Harlem, New York where she met girls just like Precious Jones. When she finished speaking, the crowd jumped to their feet, thanking her for the story. They spent another hour asking questions.

The event was sponsored by UMSL’s Office of Student Life and the Family Resource Center, a St. Louis agency that treats and prevents child abuse and neglect.

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Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel