Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I read this because I kept seeing ads for the movie, and I always want to read the book before I watch the movie. 

I liked the book.  I thought it was a very interesting story and it had interesting characters.

However, a lot of people that I respect have had issues with the story.  Big, huge issues, claiming the story is horrible because it's told from the perspective of a white woman.  While I can see their point, I also think they may be getting a bit angrier than necessary.

Yes, the story is told from the perspective of a white woman, and that's made clear.  Also, at several points in the story, the women point out their discomfort at having a white woman "helping" them, they feel like it's their story, not hers.  More importantly though, I felt like the white woman telling the story goes through the process of acknowledging her privilege, and realizing that things are wrong and needed to change.  Skeeter knows that she's putting herself and these women telling their stories in danger.  While one can say a white woman shouldn't have been the one to tell the story, wouldn't it have been almost impossible during that time for a black woman to get a story published?  Maybe I'm wrong in assuming that.  Skeeter had the resources and the time to write the stories.  I don't think she ever acted as if she believed she was doing these women a favor because it was benefiting her as much as them.

I thought this was a nice story about a woman who, after attending college, returns home and realizes that things are not right in her community or her own home, for that matter. She has the choice of becoming just another Southern housewife, or becoming the person she needs to be, someone who wants to make a difference in the world. This is also about forming friendships between women of different ages and backgrounds and races. But mostly, this is the story about "The Help" - the women who cleaned the houses and raised the children of the white families. Most of them were in some pretty bad situations, and yet, they didn't have many other options with regard to finding work.

I liked that this story made people aware of a situation that a lot of people probably didn't know much about.  I find it difficult to complain about anything that makes people more aware of injustices and the need for civil rights.  At the same time, this was an entertaining story.  It doesn't set itself up to be a documentary, and certainly there may be some inaccuracies, but I didn't see anything harmful about the book or the movie, for that matter.

I'm the first to admit that my knowledge about the deep south is fairly limited so I did find this somewhat eye-opening.  I enjoyed the book and the movie, which I watched the week after I finished reading the book. I didn't love it, but I liked it quite a bit.

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