Monday, 16 September 2013
Devouring Books: The Kid by Sapphire
Ok, so. I really liked Push- it's written in a really interesting way, to show Precious's growing literacy and empowerment and all sorts of things like that, and above all, it leaves you with a sense of hope- that, even if bad things happen to you, even if some of the WORST things happen to you, you're still allowed to do everything you can to rise above all of those bad things (to Push your way out of them, if you will). So, it's horrible but there's kind of a purpose to the horror, and it at least doesn't leave you feeling like you want to die (or at least not so much...)
The Kid, on the other hand, starts with Precious's death (oh yeah) and goes rapidly downhill from there. Before I even start, I really have to emphasise how upsetting Precious's death is- all you want when you read Push is for her (and her child, Abdul, the kid of the title) to be ok, to escape the ridiculously horrible circumstances of her upbringing and live a long happy life. She dies when she's 27, so yeah. It's horrible. What's really clear from the outset is that she's raised an intelligent, curious, fairly sweet nine-year-old boy, and even though she's dead before the book even begins, her influence is clear in him, at least to begin with.
So it's all... Not good, but at least bearable, until Abdul gets taken into care and everything turns to shit. At every single facility charged with his care, he's failed by all authority figures, he gets beaten, raped, all the possible bad things, and he spends his first years of puberty being raised by Catholic priests who very much conform to the popular image of Catholic priests these days (child rapists, that is). And it's SO horrible, and there's a whole thing about how he's being redeemed by dance, but I was still trying not to throw up after his great grandma explained her rape as a 10 year old so I kind of missed that bit.
Here's the thing about this book, though. While with Push I very much felt emotionally connected to Precious, and while there were bits that were shocking, they had a purpose- showing the things that Precious has to overcome to become who she wants to be, with The Kid... it was really difficult to feel connected to Abdul because of the things that he does. The whole theory behind this book is that abuse begets abuse, I think, but when that means that Abdul rapes a child because he thinks that's the only way to show his love... I just don't know what to do with that. Because he's smart, and he knows what he's doing, and I just... That is SO not what Precious would have wanted him to become, and it kind of hurts to read.
But it more than hurts to read, it's gross, and to very little purpose, it seems. There's no situation I can imagine where a great-grandma would tell her great-grandson about the time she was raped (in detail) and, I mean, does Abdul have to be raped in every situation of care he's in? Is that really that likely? I mean, stop me if I'm being truly naive about the care situation in New York City, but it has to be better than that, surely? And yes, I understand it's for, you know, dramatic emphasis, but does that mean it has to be so graphic and horrible and just... hopeless? Are difficult situations only escapable for a tiny amount of time before you have to return to them? Am I ever going to stop asking questions?
Basically, I don't even know how I made it to the end of this book, and I have a feeling I only finished it to go 'DON'T read this, but you can definitely read Push, or, at least just watch Precious.' Because Precious had a lot of the same things to say, but did it in a more concise, less horribly disturbing and much less hopeless way, and The Kid was just not a pleasant experience in any way. Which I realise it wasn't supposed to be, but that didn't make it any better to read.
*You definitely don't remember my part in this, because it was pre-blog. Otherwise, I would have had to write a post immediately, going ZOMG EMOTIONS.