Our second #ThrowbackThursdayBookstagram for the month is THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett.
First published in 2009, the book has 2,493,705 ratings on Goodreads, which is a heck of a number. The tagline for the book reads: “Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.” Those three woman are Skeeter, who has returned home to Mississippi after college; Aibileen, a Black maid “raising her seventeenth white child”; and Minnie, Aibileen’s best friend. The narrative itself centers on Skeeter’s desire to tell the stories of these Black maids and others in the community.
The story itself is the subject of some controversy. Trysh Travis, associate professor of women’s studies at the University of Florida wrote an interesting and informative piece that helps answer the question, “Is The Help realistic?” And Viola Davis, who played Aibileen, said of the movie version: “I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.”
Well said, Viola.
But that’s not to say you can’t find value in a story. When I read the book, I approached it as I would any work of fiction during that time in my life (with four young kids): as a form of escape. And then, I used it as a springboard for learning more about that era in the South, more about the voices of Black women, more about racial tension and racism, both in 1963 and in 2012 (the year I read it).
And that, my friends, is the beauty of reading.
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