Friday, June 3, 2011

Literary Friday: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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This week I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I have had the book for months, and I wanted to read it before the movie's release.  I was mistaken in thinking it was being released in June, but the release date is in August. Bummer.  However, I highly recommend this book since Kathryn Stockett is a talented Southern voice.

The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960's.  Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan returns home after her Ole Miss graduation.  Skeeter yearns to become a writer, and a New York editor challenges her to write something new.  Unlike her other Chi Omega sisters at Ole Miss, Skeeter did not attend college strictly for an "Mrs." degree.  She soon gets a job writing a housekeeping column for the Jackson Journal newspaper; the only problem is Skeeter, like most white ladies belonging to her class, does not know the first thing about keeping house. Skeeter asks her friend's maid, Aibileen, to help her answer the housekeeping questions for her column.  As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Skeeter discovers an idea for her book: she will collect stories told by black maids about their white women employers.  Skeeter will write both the good and the bad stories about these women.

Aibileen's best friend, Minny, is the first maid after Aibileen to agree to Skeeter's interviews. The book shifts between Skeeter's, Aibileen's and Minny's points of view.  Minny is a mess, as we say here in the South.  She is so funny, and I truly enjoyed all of the chapters told from her point of view. Minny's story about the "Terrible Awful" is genius.  Thanks to Minny's influence, several other maids decide to help with the book.

Generations of white children have been reared (I know we say "raised" in the South, but chickens are "raised" and children are "reared") by black women. Kathryn Stockett's novel fairly depicts the good, bad, and ugly of these often times tenuous relationships between the white families and their black domestic help.  If you read The Help, be sure to read Stockett's "Too Little, Too Late" at the very end of the book.  She writes that she regrets not "being old or thoughtful enough" to ask her childhood maid, Demetrie, what it felt like to "be black in Mississippi, working for our white family."  This missed opportunity was the impetus for Stockett's writing The Help.

I must admit that this book was an emotional read for me.  I was born in 1965, and I remember separate water fountains for "colored" and "white" people.    I also remember the desegregation of our school system, and black maids picking-up white children from school. Some white children still sound more like their black maids than their white moms because they spend more time with their maids.  Our Mountain Brook home had a maid's bathroom in it. No, we were not a part of the "Sanitation Initiative" like in the book. The house was built in the 1950's and we bought it in the early 1990's. I can honestly say that I have seen change in the South over my lifetime, but it never hurts to remember the past.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill

11 comments:

  1. I read this one a couple of months ago... I was hooked from the start... Thanks for the great review. I didn't know it was going to be a movie, so I'm off to google that!!! It should be great...

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  2. sounds good,, thanks for this,,

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  3. I've heard about this book, and really want to read it. It sounds great.

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  4. I've had my copy for months too, and still haven't read it. I'm going to try to get started this weekend. The movie looks so good!

    Thanks for the post. It's motivated me to pull the book out and start reading!

    Have a great weekend!
    Pam

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  5. I LOVE this book! It's in my short list of forever favorites! I hope the movie is good! 'Secret Life of Bees' is one of my favorites, too but the movie seemed somewhat sadder. It's hard for them to capture the essence of the book in a 2 hour movie! ♥

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  6. I have been wanting to read this one for awhile, but someone in bookclub nixed it since she'd read it already. I'll have to read it on my own I suppose. Or maybe I should get a few copies and read them with my mom and grandmother to get their personal and historical insight. Is there anything in the story which may embarrass my very proper Granny?

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  7. Oh Ricki, thank you for telling me about this book. I will download it on my i pad. Living in the south now, I am more interested in history like this. I don't know if you have seen it, but here in Natchez, we still have the original chains they used on slaves in the place where they used to trade them and I had blogged about it in the past. It always gives me goosebumps seeing them.I feel so bad for them...Christine

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  8. OH you have my interest Ricki i just have to read this book!!!! I love books about the south and the black maids. I always find them so humourous, smart and so interesting!
    I read another bloggers post and she used the term "he's a mess" and i didn't get it!
    How interesting that you grew up around that segregation. History can be so sad but very fascinating!

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  9. If you do not remember the past, history will repeat itself! This is my favorite book of the year and I cannot wait to see the movie this fall.
    Thanks for helping to get the word out.

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  10. My mom recommended this one to me, and I really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to the movie this summer (although no one else in my house is, so I may have to wait for it to come to Netflix.)

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  11. No idea how I missed this review earlier, but am delighted you linked up from your film post today. Will definitely be reading this sooner rather than later now.

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