Posts Tagged ‘the help’

Snippets from Kathryn Stockett

Several months ago Kathryn Stockett—who wrote the Help; see previous post for my review—paused her book tour at the King’s English long enough to share some pearls. So clutching my s.r.o. ticket in my hands, and doing my best to control my fan-girlie giggle, I joined fellow-bloggers, Sharla of Winter Write, Melissa of One Librarian’s Book Reviews, and Suey of It’s All About Books for a delightful evening with a genuine southern belle.


Sharla and I were lucky to find a seats with a great view—on the stairs!

Here are my favorite snippets from the Q&A session:

  • She ruffled lots of feathers to write this book. People tended to close-lip when she started asking questions. Some members of her family don’t even speak to her anymore! (Which absolutely validates this book in my opinion)
  • But, she wrote it thinking no one would read it, so she didn’t care if she crossed taboo lines.
  • After 5 years and 60+ rejection letters, she finally stopped telling people she was writing a book.
  • But, she appreciates all those rejection letters, because they gave her the “thick skin” required to deal with the strongreactions people have to her book
  • The first cover for the Help, the one she fell in love with, was of a black woman’s hand holding a white child’s hand. The publishers vetoed it quickly though, and after 25 more possibilities, Stockett no longer cared what the cover looked like. However, she often wonders what the current cover has to do with anything.
  • She was too afraid to write in Hilly’s voice (Hilly represents the traditional, often hypocritical façade of the time) because it “freaked [her] out” to “go there.”
  • The Help receives mixed reactions from both races. Some say the book holds true to their experience, others are uncomfortable or upset.
  • Vernon Jordan, adviser to Bill Clinton, once told Stockett that while he was a chauffeur for the mayor of Atlanta, he had some similar experiences to those mentioned in the book.
  • One woman from Mobile said she hadn’t remembered seeing separate bathrooms for help and asked Stockett if that was exclusive to the Jackson area. Stocket claimed she read many accounts about separate bathrooms in Mobile and all over. She said she even sees them in older New York apartments occasionally.
  • Stockett’s own experience growing up in the south took place as recently as the mid ‘70’s, but she set the story in the early ‘60’s to coincide with the Civil Rights movement.
  • Stockett’s own maid who raised her from birth was Dimeteri, a second cook, handed down to her grandma. During Stockett’s awkward years, Dimeteri would whisper to Stocket that she was beautiful and important and talented. Stockett credits Dimeteri with establishing her self-confidence.
  • Now that Stockett understands the sacrifices that Dimeteri made in order to raise her, she is overwhelmed and thankful for Dimeteri’s gift.

Kathrine Stockett’s The Help

Thank you so much Sharla of Winter Write for giving me this book! I absolutely loved it!

Stockett weaves this story through the voices of three very different women:

Minny-a pillar-of-strength, no-nonsense woman who’s mastery of the kitchen regularly prevents her from loosing jobs due to her constant need to speak her mind.

Aibileen-surrogate mother to 17+ white children. After decades of waiting on white families she looses her only family, her son, when his white employers fail to see that he receives proper medical care following a farm accident. After this “a bitter seed is planted deep in her heart,” and she struggles to come to terms with the rules of her world.

Miss Skeeter-a young, freethinker who–at 22-years-old–holds a bachelors degree in one hand, but will fail to impress her mother until she has a ring on the other.

Upon returning home from college to find that her own, beloved maid has suddenly disappeared and those who know why are too afraid to answer her questions, Skeeter starts to see some of the injustices of her world and way of life. So after assembling a great deal of courage, Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen set out to do their part to end the injustice by publishing a book filled with the stories of southern black maids.

It was good to hear, from an inside perspective, about life in the South during the 1960’s. For some time I’ve held on to all kinds of questions about that culture and time. This book answered many of them.

It blows my mind that after 20 or 30 years of work, a black maid can only dream of earning minimum wage. I wonder at the complexity of the love/hate relationship between a black maid and the white woman who is helpless without her, but feels superior to her nonetheless.

I marveled at the Catch22 of a black maid raising up white children—sometimes with more love and care than their own parents—knowing that eventually these white children would become white adults and learn to debase her for her race and profession. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this situation is that the black maid must give so much to the care of a white family that her own family must go neglected. Her own children must forfeit the attention of their mother, because she is bound to someone else’s children.

My favorite part of this book must be contrasted against the prevailing facades, hypocrisy, and dishonesty of the white folk in this book. Aibileen tends a young girl who longs for her mother’s approval but goes largely ignored and brokenhearted, because her mother is too caught up in the foolishness of her society to provide attention for her daughter.

In a most loving and unselfish way, Aibileen finds the quiet moments to whisper in her ear that she is a special girl, a smart girl; a girl who can be confident and do great things. I just love Aibileen (and the real woman who inspired her character) for giving such a valuable gift to someone who could easily make her life miserable later. My hope is that instilling that little girl with confidence will help her make her own choices about race someday and not just parrot her parents’ views.

It’s clear that Stockett knew her characters well. She does a brilliant job of giving each woman her own distinct voice, heart, and feelings. I appreciate the clear view she provided of everyone in this book. I sympathized with all different perspectives: black maid, white southern belle, white trash, and redneck.