• Aka—Ramona Lofton
• Birth—August 4, 1950
• Where—Fort Ord, California, USA
• Education—B.A., City College of New York; M.F.A., Brooklyn
• Awards—Fellow Award in Literature from United States
• Currently—lives in New York City, New York
Ramona Lofton, known professionally as Sapphire, is an American author and performance poet.
Sapphire was born Ramona Lofton in Fort Ord, California. She was one of four children of an Army couple who moved all over the world. After a disagreement over where the family would live, the family parted ways, with Sapphire’s mother "kind of abandon[ing] them". Sapphire dropped out of high school, moved to San Francisco where she enrolled in City College of San Francisco, only to drop out and become a “hippie”.
She attended City College of New York and obtained her master's degree at Brooklyn College. Sapphire held various jobs before starting her writing career, working as a performance artist, a social worker, and a teacher of reading and writing.
She moved to New York City in 1977 and immersed herself in poetry. She also became a member of a gay organization named United Lesbians of Color for Change Inc. She wrote, performed and eventually published her poetry during the height of the Slam Poetry movement in New York. She took the name Sapphire because of its association at one time in American culture with the image of a "belligerent black woman" and because she could picture the name on a book cover more than her birth name.
Sapphire self-published the collection of poems Meditations on the Rainbow in 1987. As Cheryl Clarke notes, Sapphire's 1994 book of poems, American Dreams, is often erroneously referred to as her first book. One critic referred to it as "one of the strongest debut collections of the '90s".
Her novel, Push, was unpublished before being discovered by the renowned feminist literary agent Charlotte Sheedy, whose interest created demand and eventually led to a bidding war. Sapphire submitted the first 100 pages of Push to a publisher auction in 1995 and the highest bidder offered her $500,000 to finish the novel. After its publishing, Sapphire noted in an interview with William Powers that "she noticed Push for sale in one of the Penn Station bookstores, and that moment it struck her she's no longer a creature of the tiny world of art magazines and homeless-shelters from which she came." The novel brought Sapphire praise and much controversy for its graphic account of a young woman growing up in a cycle of incest and abuse.
The film based on her novel premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009; it was renamed Precious to avoid confusion with the 2009 action film Push. Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for best actress for her role as Precious; Mo'Nique was nominated for best supporting—and won—for her portrayal of as Mary. Sapphire herself appears briefly in the film as a daycare worker.
Sapphire's writing was the subject of an academic symposium at Arizona State University in 2007. In 2009 she was the recipient of a Fellow Award in Literature from United States Artists.
Sapphire lives and works in New York City. Push is actually based on her own childhood. (From Wikipedia.)
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