Sapphire’s Literary Breakthrough

Erotic Literacies, Feminist Pedagogies, Environmental Justice Perspectives

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 an instructor of English in Arizona State University's College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, a faculty advisor for the Certificate in Environmental Humanities, and an affiliate faculty in women and gender studies and African and African-American studies. She earned an MFA in creative writing (1992) and a PhD in English (2003), both at ASU.

Neal A. Lester is the founding director of Project Humanities at Arizona State University, where he is also Foundation Professor of English.

Lynette D. Myles is a lecturer in the Department of English at Arizona State University, where she also earned her Bachelor of Arts (1997), Master of Arts (2003) and PhD (2006) in English.

Praise for this book

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

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