Celebrating LGBTQ History Month with Sapphire
Sapphire, born Ramona Lofton on August 4, 1950 in Fort Ord, California, is an openly bisexual American author and performance poet. Although she is best known for the film “Precious,” which is a film adaptation of her 1996 book “Push,” Lofton has written several books and poems that are known for being confrontational and making the reader uncomfortable.
Lofton’s childhood consisted of sexual abuse by her father (a US Army Sergeant) and dealing with her mother’s alcoholism. After dropping out of high school and obtaining her GED, Lofton moved to New York City in 1977 where she became very heavily involved in poetry. In New York, Lofton also became a member of the United Lesbians of Color for Chang Inc. In 1983, Lofton’s mother passed away and in the same year her brother was murdered in a public park.
Inspired by poets such as Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni and Ntozake Shange, Lofton began to release through writing. Four years after the deaths of her mother and brother, in 1987, Lofton self-published a collection of her poems called “Meditations on the Rainbow” under the name Sapphire which became her pen name. In 1994, Lofton’s book of poems, “American Dreams” was published. “American Dreams” was a confrontational compilation of poems about an urban life and touched on topics such as poverty, abuse, rape and sexuality.
Lofton’s fist novel “Push” (1996) was awarded $500,000 for completion, which was unheard of at the time and sold thousands of copies. “Push” was loosely based on Lofton’s childhood experiences and the lives of the Bronx and Harlem students she taught while living in New York from 1983 to 1993.
The story is that of Clarice Precious Jones, better known as Precious, who is an HIV-positive, obese, illiterate teenager who was abused by her mother and sexually and physically abused by her father who has impregnated her for the second time. Once Precious is enrolled in an alternative school, she frees herself through the art of literature with the help of Ms. Rain.
The book gained recognition but the 2009 film adaptation directed by Lee Daniels brought the dramatic and heart breaking story to life. Mo’nique, who played Precious’ mother, won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her role in the movie and Gabourey Sidibe made her acting debut as Precious and was nominated for an Oscar.
Although the movie received high accolades, it also received negative reception: some people felt that the movie was considered too harsh and some people felt that movie was only popular because it demeaned black life.
Lofton’s next novel “The Kid” (2011) tells the story of Abdul Jamal Louis Jones who is the son of Clarice Precious Jones. However, “The Kid” is not a sequel to “Push”, it is a separate entity. In “The Kid” Abdul is a teenager filled with anger, hatred and rage who does not know himself and is orphaned.
Lofton takes you inside of his mind and humanizes the otherwise dehumanized. It is meant to shock and to be perverse at times. Later in the story, Abdul, like his mother finds his freedom in art.
Lofton has won numerous awards (among them, the Fellow Award in Literature from United States Artist) and still continues to write today.
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