Rating: 4 out of 4 stars
Title: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women–mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends–view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.
I first read The Help approximately 3 years ago, and loved it. Until recently, I was not aware that there was any controversy surrounding this book. Being that I wanted to take this month and reread a few books to see if my thoughts on the book had changed, I thought The Help would be a good place to start.
First off I loved the book. There isn’t a single character that I would change. Three years later, I still found that I could not put the book down. I read the book in less then 2 days. Despite the controversy, I still found this an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone. This book contains humor (Minny is the best), love and growth.
I really loved all of the characters, but really enjoyed Celia’s character. I loved that even though she came from a small town, she was so innocent and naive just like a child. It was because of her innocence that she was able to call Minny her friend. She didn’t see her as the black help, but as another human being. Her behavior confused Minny and made her wary, but it was like looking through the non prejudiced eyes of a baby. Of everyone I think her and Minny’s relationship was by far my favorite of the book.
The Controversy: The problem that many had with this story was that Stockett sugar coated what blacks went through. On top of that it made them angry that Skeeter was their savior. Also, many felt that a white woman should not be writing about black lives.
Now, on that last point I have to disagree. As a poc, I can see what they mean. It is often said to write what you know and that that is what authors tend to do. Kathryn Stockett being a white woman could not put herself 100% into the shoes of Aibileen or Minny. With that said, I wouldn’t go so far to say white authors should not write about poc. I think what needs to be done is that if they are going to do so, it is important to do research and even talk to poc. Going off of heresay is never the answer. While I enjoyed the book, I think there were some parts where I felt things were tiptoed around.
Many of the negative opinions I found about Stockett sugar coating things were based off of those who only saw the movie. I have seen the movie and plan to watch it again for a compare and contrast post (coming soon), and I will say there is much in the book that is not explained in the movie. I do not want to go to into that in this post, but I think the biggest thing that the book touches upon is Skeeter being the savior of the maids.
As I was rereading the book that is something that got under my skin. The more I thought about it, the more that I felt it would have been nice for this to not be dependent upon a white person saving the maids. I think that takes away from their story and struggle. It sends the message that poc can’t do it themselves. At the same time, it is nice to show, particularly for the time period of the book, that not every white person is or was racist or prejudice against blacks.
The one controversy that I do have to agree with is that I don’t think Stockett really delved into what it meant to be black and a maid for the white families. Yes, she touched upon many sensitive topics, but many were not 100% accurate. The conditions for the maids was worse. There was a lot more degradation and trifling acts against them. While it may have been hard to find, but I think it would have been wise for Stockett to, like Skeeter, interview families and thoroughly research what it was like for the help.
As I don’t want this post to be too long, I will leave it as is. I think much of the controversy comes from anger within the black community and how it was portrayed. I do not hold anything against Stockett for that. I still think she did a great job with the work, but it may have been wiser to not tip toe upon such a delicate and hurtful part of american history. All in all, read the book! It’s good. This is my second time reading it and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.
Have you read The Help? If so, what did you think of it? Have you heard anything about the controversy surrounding the story? I would love to know your opinion :-)!
**I know race relations is a sensitive topic, even today, but don’t be shy with any comments :-)**