Raped repeatedly by her father, abused by her horrible mother and kicked out of school for her second pregnancy, Precious (also obese, black and illiterate) finds redemption when an alternative-school teacher (lesbian) teaches her to read and write a journal about her feelings. Writing isn’t going to save Precious (also HIV infected), says Jennie Yabroff in Newsweek. Teach her math so she can get a job to support her infant and toddler (one has Down’s Syndrome) and move out of the homeless shelter where she ends up.
It’s possible, of course, that Precious will go on journaling her way to middle-class security. But watching the film, I wondered why her teacher kept insisting Precious write, write, write, instead of add, subtract, multiply. If Precious aspires to financial security and gainful employment, she’s a lot likelier to get it as an accountant than a poet.
. . . In movies such as Freedom Writers and Finding Forrester, books including Precious, and the Broadway play Superior Donuts, underprivileged, minority kids are able to transform their lives with a few strokes of a pen. Rather than impeding effective communication, these characters’ lack of vocabulary, limited understanding of grammar, ignorance of literature, and basic inability to read or spell guarantee the urgency and authenticity of their stories, which are nonetheless told in fresh, descriptive language that brings tears to the eyes of their teachers.
Of course, Precious isn’t going to be a CPA any more than she’s going to be a professional writer. I know the movie is supposed to be uplifting, but the life prospects for an HIV-positive teenage mother with seventh-grade reading skills aren’t great, even without the abusive family and the disabled kid.
Update: Juan Williams calls Precious a “depraved” story in the “ghetto-lit” style, which has become popular with middle-class black women.