August 22, 2011

The Help - Book Review

Kathryn Stockett's "the Help' is set in Jackson, Mississippi 'during the nascent civil rights movement. This is a town where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver.' A shocking relationship exists between the whites and the blacks and it's strange to think that this happened not too long ago.

On returning home from college, white heroine Skeeter begins collecting the shocking tales of the black maids of her town, unearthing evil truths about the white friends around her and how they treat their domestic help.  More Oprah than awe inspiring, this book is predictable and at times quite slow but with hilarious dialogue entangled within as Stockett chose to use heavy dialect for the main characters. Here are some memorable quotes :

"it always sound scarier when a hollerer talk soft."   

"I want to yell so loud that Baby Girl can hear me that dirty ain't a color, disease ain't the Negro side a town. I want to stop that moment from coming - and it come in ever white child's life - when they start to think that colored folks ain't as good as whites. ... I pray that wasn't her moment, Pray I still got time."   

"....we ain't doing civil rights here. We just telling stories like they really happen."

There is no trickier subject for a writer from the South than that of affection between a black person and a white one in the unequal world of segregation. For the dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect, makes it impossible to know whether what flowed between two people was honest feeling or pity or pragmatism' (Howell Raines's Pulitzer Prize winning article "Grady's Gift" which Kathryn Sockett used in her summary)

What I found interesting whilst reading this book was the striking similarities between some of the main characters and my Dad's nanny/help Daisy. Daisy helped raised my dad, aunt and uncle during the 60's and 70's in Barbados; a time when racial segregation was still very much engrained in this former British colony. It would be interesting - and upsetting I'm sure - to see what it would have been like for all the Daisys in Barbados during that time.
Us as kids with Mum and Daisy :)

1 comment:

  1. I really like this post...I had a similar relationship with my Grandfather's nanny/maid who helped raise my dad and his siblings, and then me and my brother growing up. She worked until she was 84 and just passed away this year, but was such a big part of our family. It would definitely have been interesting to see the change in the dynamics of the relationships they had with her over the years as segregation changed.