Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
This was hands down an interesting read, even though I took eons to read it. I happened to have watched the movie before, and when I found out there was a book through my good friend, I thought why not. From the movie, even though I enjoyed it, I felt a bit thrown off. I felt like it was one of those movies with so much character that you need to get to the depths of it to understand what exactly transpired.
The book is a narration of the chronicle of events that transpired in the town of Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. It’s about black maids who raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal their silver. It’s also about the white people that hired the maids, how they live, and how they treat the black maids. From Miss Eugenia ‘Skeeter’ Phelan, who came home from college to find the maid that had raised her had disappeared. While on a quest to find out why and searching for a job, she shakes up the community with her antics. And there’s Aibileen, a maid raising her 17th white child, Mae Mobley (whom she refers to her special baby) and whose only child, Treelone, was killed in an absurd work accident. And finally Minny, a maid whose cooking was as sassy as her tongue and was also a victim of racial discrimination by her employer, Ms. Hilly Holbrock.
This time round I would like to do the review a bit differently, because what was happening in 1962, is not different from what’s happening today. Even looking past racial discrimination, which still happens anyway, there’s the discrimination of the role they play, mostly seen as an inferior one. For instance, when you look at your maid or house help or better yet, domestic manager, how do you treat them? Do you treat them as part of your team, or do you treat them as potential thieves of your jewellery, cutlery or money? Do you allow them to share the same space as you, or do you feel like they’re not worthy of sharing the space with you – for instance, do you feed them the same food as you; share the same cutlery; allow them seat on the same table as you; or even allow them to use the same bathroom?
Yet these are the same people we entrust our children with and expect them to treat our children with at most decency and care, yet we give them the very least of it. I really admired Aibileen, and her passion for her work, taking care of the children that were entrusted to her. Every chance she got, she would tell little Mae Mobley, whose mother gave her minimal attention, “you is smart, you is kind, you is important.’ And she would make her repeat after her every time so that she understood what it meant, to boost her self-esteem and to ensure that she didn’t feel the void of not getting attention from her parents. Yet at the end of the day, her employer, Ms. Elizabeth Leefolt, went ahead to install for her a toilet away from the house because they didn’t believe that they should share toilets with black maids, for fear of acquiring diseases, and just because whites shouldn’t share bathrooms with their black maids.
Miss Skeeter, however, was one of a kind. She was able to empower the maids and show them that someone cared about their feelings, about their well-being. That someone appreciated them for who they are, looked beyond their colour and their assumed “diminutive” role in the community. From her childhood maid, Constantine, who was her confidante and voice of reason; also working with Aibileen on her Miss Myrna column, which is a job she scored at the Jackson Journal. She was tasked to write about housework and relationships, and she knew nothing about that. From their interaction, she learns that Aibileen’s son Treelore was writing a book about his experiences in Mississippi at the time of his death. This inspires her to try to convince the local maids (such as Minny) to be interviewed for a book that will show their points of view, which was later titled ‘The Help’ and published.
All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe. ~ Kathryn Stockett,
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for an intense read, that’s eventful with a hint of history around racial inequality. It’s an inspiration.
My current read is What Women Want by Fanny Blake. It’s kept me glued to the pages, yo! Such a chick Lit, something I definitely needed in my life right now. Will do a review of it soon.
Book Store Purchased: TBC, TRM Branch.
Signing Off ~~~ *Kawi*