Exclusive: Interview with Author Sapphire
Social workers are divided over pop diva Mariah Carey’s portrayal of social worker Ms. Weiss in “Precious,” a movie about an abused, pregnant, overweight teen girl who finds hope through literacy.
Director Lee Daniels said he closely followed the book on which the movie is based — “Push” by Sapphire.
Sapphire (Ramona Lofton), 59, was born in California to a military family. According to Wikipedia, Sapphire’s mother “kind of abandoned the family.” Sapphire dropped out of high school but eventually made her way to New York City where she got a master’s degree and worked as an exotic dancer and reading and writing teacher before launching a writing career.
Social Workers Speak! asked Sapphire about the portrayal of social workers in “Precious.” She agreed to answer our questions by email. Here is her response:
Q: Your novel “Push,” has been turned into a very powerful and moving movie “Precious.” Are you pleased with the results? What experiences in your life inspired this story? Did you meet children such as Claireece?
A: I am very pleased with the movie “Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire.” I think it is a movie that makes a powerful statement about a forgotten segment of society and at the same time is a wonderful work of art. I knew many children like the main character in the book and movie. They inspired me to write the novel Push.
Q: Social workers deal on a day to day basis with many issues addressed in your book — illiteracy, child abuse, rape etc. Did you know social workers and did that influence the creation of the character Miss Weiss in your book?
A: I know many social workers and that influenced the creation of my character Ms Weiss. Two social workers and a social work student read the book in manuscript form before it was published and felt the portrayal of Ms Weiss was insightful and compelling.
Q: Some social workers who have read the book and seen the movie said they could have been represented more fairly. Some say they could have provided the services Miss Rain helped arrange for Claireece. Do you think their criticism of the book and movie are fair?
A: Some research on your part will uncover a lawsuit brought by eligible welfare recipients (who were) kicked off welfare and people who were eligible for but were denied welfare by the (New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani) administration. Who do you think those people turned to (as Giuliani grandstanded about reducing the welfare roles!) after social services were instructed by the Mayor’s office to deny them welfare benefits? They turned to us, their teachers, churches, and neighbors. The unlucky had no one to turn to and some of them died on the street, starved, or committed suicide. I don’t know how many of the people you mention (who feel I created an unfair portrait of a social worker) were working in the social service system in New York in the 1980’s but the failures of the system at that time are documented and the casualties were legion.
The situation has changed and hopefully it will continue to do so.
Q: There has been much fuss made in the media about actress Mariah Carey deglamorizing her look to play Miss Weiss? Do you think too much fuss was made about that? And does her portrayal send the message that social workers are dowdy people?
A: Mariah Carey is a fine actress and played the role of Ms. Weiss with wisdom, soul, and grace. I will be forever grateful to her for her fine performance.
Q: What projects are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a new novel and a book of poetry. I am also taking some graduate classes in literature in hopes of getting into a PhD program. All best, Sapphire.
Readers can also watch Katie Couric’s interview with Sapphire on CBS by clicking here. And to find out more about how social workers help children and teens visit the National Association of Social Workers Children and Families Web page and “Help Starts Here” Kids and Families Web page.| Leave A Comment