Elizabeth sent me the Bates reading list earlier in the summer, and I browsed through it. One of the books on many of the individual lists was The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, so I ordered it through the library and dived right in, knowing little about it. It is a novel about colored maids in the South in the 1960's. I found it to be a fascinating and compelling story. I have since read a criticism of white authors writing about the black experience (as in this case), but I think Stockett does a wonderful job of pulling the reader in to the lives of both black and white. It was my favorite kind of book, one I had trouble putting down.
I think part of my interest was from my experience: my mother, who is from the South, brought a young black woman to our home in the Midwest to be our maid and a nanny to my brother and I when I was a baby (1959-1960). My mother reports that she even had a maid's uniform for her, complete with a little white cap. I don't have any memory of it (she was only with us for a year), but I've seen some pictures, and I know the woman now. My mother moved back to her hometown in the Outer Banks and hired this same woman (now 70) to clean for her.