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Palgrave Macmillan

Sapphire's Literary Breakthrough

Erotic Literacies, Feminist Pedagogies, Environmental Justice Perspectives

ISBN 9781137282217
Publication Date December 2012
Formats Hardcover Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This thoughtful collection explores the writing of provocative poet, author, and performance artist Sapphire. Like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and other important writers, Sapphire challenges narratives that limit human imagination and possibility. PUSH, and its award-winning film adaptation Precious, have sparked national debate about the intentions and responsibilities of black literature and cinema. Sapphire's Literary Breakthrough enlists new and established scholarly voices to elucidate Sapphire's social justice concerns and to locate her contributions within larger African American literary traditions and cultural landscapes.

Elizabeth McNeil is Instructor of English at Arizona State University, USA. She is the author of Trickster Discourse: Mediating Transformation for a New World and has published in MELUS, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, and Studies in American Humor.

Neal A. Lester is Foundation Professor of English at Arizona State University, USA and specializes in African American literature and cultural studies. The author or co-author of four books, Lester has written on such figures as ntozake shange, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, and Carolivia Herron; and on such topics as sexual violence and black masculinities, the racialized politics of desire in personal ads, and black homoeroticism.

DoVeanna S. Fulton is Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama, USA. Her books, Speaking Power: Black Feminist Orality in Women's Narratives of Slavery and Speaking Lives, Authoring Texts: Three African American Women's Oral Slave Narratives (co-edited with Reginald Pitts), examine discursive practices in African American women's life narratives.

Lynette D. Myles teaches in the Department of English and African and African American Studies at Arizona State University, USA. She is the author of Female Subjectivity in African American Women's Narratives of Enslavement: Beyond Borders.

Introduction: PUSHing Boundaries, PUSHing Art
1. Sapphire's PUSH: Locating Safe Sites for Writing and Personal Transformation; Lynette D. Myles
2. 'Bombs Cost More than Welfare': Rethinking 'Responsibility' in Sapphire's PUSH; Toni Fellela
3. Multiple Oppressions, 'Multiple Consciousness,' and the Spirit of Harriet Tubman in Sapphire's PUSH; Barbara McCaskill
4. 'Spiky Green Life': Environmental Justice Themes in Sapphire's PUSH; Joni Adamson
5. Un-'Freak'ing Black Female Self: Grotesque-Erotic Agency and Ecofeminist Unity in Sapphire's PUSH; Elizabeth McNeil
6. Sapphire's PUSH for Erotic Literacy and Black Girl Sexual Agency; L. H. Stallings
7. Awakening to Self-Love in PUSH: Understanding the Significance of Sapphire's Harlem; Wilfred D. Samuels
8. Looking for 'the Alternative[s]': Locating Sapphire's PUSH in African American Literary Tradition through Literacy and Orality; DoVeanna S. Fulton Minor
9. Deconstructing the 'Pedagogy of Abuse': Teaching Child Sexual Abuse Narratives; Elizabeth McNeil
10. 'Rock the Motherfucking House': Guiding a Study of Sapphire's PUSH; Neal A. Lester
11. Why does Precious have to Lighten Up or Shuffle? Teaching with Lee Daniels's 'Adaptation'; Christopher Burrell and James Wermers
12. PUSHing to Precious: A Compilation and Annotation of Works by and about Sapphire; Eric Parks


"This volume presents many essays for addressing a range of themes relevant to African American and feminist literatures and is a valuable addition to any collection of young adult or adult literary criticisms." - Journal of American Culture
"As a first-of-its kind, groundbreaking critical treatment of Sapphire's prose and poetry, Sapphire's Literary Breakthrough offers a refreshing look at the nuances and contributions of a writer whose most known for the novel (named Push)-turned-film Precious. Readers are drawn so deeply into dialogue with Sapphire's Push that it will leave them both exhilarated and compelled to buy Sapphire's works and read each one. To say this is simply a celebration of Sapphire or Push would not capture the value of this volume or its emphatic insistence on the ubiquity of an underlying feminist pedagogy; this is a rich set of essays, which analyzes the contours of Sapphire's works, and lay bare the fragility of Black lives within the context of a sociopolitical environment driven by a multifaceted state apparatus. No matter whether it is welfare, sexual violence, literacy, civic displacement, or psychological and emotional fragmentation, each essay candidly invites you into a world that is unmistakably complex and unforgettably real, but reminds you of a social justice imperative." -Ronald L. Jackson II, author of Masculinity in the Black Imagination and Scripting the Black Masculine Body in Popular Media
'This collection of essays on PUSH ranges from the most nuanced treatment of critical issues to the intricacies of classroom dynamics in teaching a challenging, controversial, and provocative text . . . While these essays are assuredly rooted in solid scholarship, they are equally rooted in loving appreciation for a groundbreaking artist who is finally receiving the scholarly attention that her unique works warrant.' - Trudier Harris, Professor of English, The University of Alabama, and J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English Emerita, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"A welcome addition to African American literary criticism . . . This volume raises important issues relevant to the sociocultural and historical contexts of African Americans that need to be examined, critiqued, and healed." - Sonja L. Lanehart, Brackenridge Endowed Chair in Literature and the Humanities, Department of English, University of Texas at San Antonio
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