Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Help

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.

1 comment:

  1. I also read this book earlier this summer, and while I felt a bit ambivalent about the story itself (I couldn’t quite get over my discomfort with the white author’s portrayal of the experience of the black maids, as you mentioned in your post), I did enjoy it very much and thought it was an extremely thought provoking book. I find it endlessly fascinating to consider that people in historical oppressed/oppressor roles must have negotiated their relationships on a personal level in such a variety of ways. I feel the same intrigue in thinking about how wives and husbands may have interacted either in the past or currently in other places in the world. There was a huge power imbalance on a legal and cultural level, but who knows what went on behind closed doors!