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Push Author Exposes Critical Public Health Issues of Obesity, Domestic Violence Through Award-Winning Work

A scene from the film Precious, starring Gabourey Sidibe

Sapphire's novel Push served as the basis for the film Precious, starring Gabourey Sidibe. (Photo Courtesy Lionsgate)

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ALBANY, N.Y. (October 27, 2010) -- Sapphire, poet, performer, and author of the bestselling novel Push (1996), addresses a wide range of social and public health issues in her work, including violence, sexual abuse, prostitution, HIV/AIDS, and discrimination in its myriad forms. She spoke before a packed house at UAlbany on Oct. 26th in an event co-sponsored by UAlbany's School of Public Health and The New York State Writers Institute.

The speaking engagement is part of a year-long celebration of the School of Public Health's 25th Anniversary in 2010-11. The School is celebrating the anniversary through a series of lectures, films and special events.

A publishing phenomenon, Push serves as the basis for the Academy Award-winning film Precious (2009), starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz. The story of an obese, illiterate, African-American woman who becomes pregnant by her father has earned a place in the multicultural literary canon.

Sapphire, author of Push

Sapphire, author of Push (1996).

Carol Whittaker, director of UAlbany's Center for Global Health, notes how the book and film address several important public health topics that the School is currently addressing through high-level research, including the spread of HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse and domestic violence, poverty and minority health disparities.

"These critically important issues are all too often swept under the rug," said Whittaker. "Through Sapphire's work, public health educators today are using the book and the film in a classroom setting to bring these subjects to light, and to explore solutions to many public health problems we currently face in the United States."

Born as Ramona Lofton in California, Sapphire is a graduate of City College and Brooklyn College and spent ten years during the 1980s and 1990s teaching the craft of writing to teenagers and adults in Harlem.  In 2009, she received a Fellow Award in Literature from the philanthropic foundation, United States Artists.

As a poet, Sapphire first achieved widespread acclaim with the publication of American Dreams (1994). Publishers Weekly called her work, "One of the strongest debut collections of the 90s … this black lesbian feminist presents a fusion of poetry and prose, interspersed with short stories. Not for the squeamish, Sapphire's imagery is so fierce that readers will want to spread out the book over several sittings…. Perfectly paced, sidestepping explication, Sapphire’s words provide pointers to her characters' dramas, but she’s still capable of stunning readers with a final image."

About the School of Public Health
Through a unique partnership with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the School of Public Health fosters growth and development on the 87-acre East Campus through collaborative initiatives with established and start-up biotech firms, as well as Tech Valley High School and the University's Cancer Research Center.

With programs in Health Policy Management and Behavior, Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Biomedical Sciences, the School offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees as well a dual MD/MPH degree program with Albany Medical College.

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