While in foster care, Abdul also loses his name. His Medicaid records misidentify him as Jamal Jones and the woman in charge of the group home he is assigned to simply decides that Jamal Jones is too much of a mouthful and renames him J.J. The loss of his name plays a role in Abdul’s development as he continues to find his own identity in the world.
Abdul also suffers greatly by being sexually abused, like his mother, continuing a cruel cycle.
“But J.J. is not Precious. And as he is going to suffer deeply so are other people who made him suffer. J.J. like many survivors of abuse will become a perpetrator for at least for part of his life,” Sapphire explained.
The abuse children suffer can kill them psychologically, but Abdul takes a different route.
“J.J. is too strong and too intelligent a child to go mad. He observes the perpetrators and says, ‘Oh, this is how they get power, I have lost my power, I see what I have to do to become powerful.’ And he does do that,” she explained.
But there is hope and Abdul finds it though art, specifically with dance, Sapphire explained.
“Dance defies the authority of trauma been inflicted on Abdul to be the sole determine of his reality,” she said.
And while “The Kid” was just released this month, Sapphire believes the book will have a lasting impact for years to come.
“With ‘The Kid’ .. I think he will have a lot to say to the world,” she said.
The crowd attending the Sapphire reading included about 50 people including one notable guest — openly gay actor Darryl Stephens of “Noah’s Arc” fame. Stephens portrayed Noah of the former Logo series and was in Atlanta filming a project for BET, he said.
Top photo: Sapphire, author of “Push,” signs copies of her new novel “The Kid” at St. Mark United Methodist Church (by Dyana Bagby)