Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Help

Kathryn Stockett's "The Help" is definitely the best book that I've read in a long time. I know that I'm late to this party, as I've heard quite a few friends, co-workers, and acquaintances talking about this book over the past year or so. I finally decided to read it based on a number of positive recommendations, and I'm glad that I did. It was one of those rare books that I didn't want to put down, and I didn't want it to end. "The Help" centers around African American maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s and the white women they work for. Stockett does a spectacular job of creating real, vivid, human characters. Aibileen and Minnie, two of the maids, are memorable and delightful characters. They're people you wish that you knew. Of course, there' s a villain, and her name is Hilly, the evil, racist, bossy, powerful white woman who heads up the Jackson Junior League. Stockett's creative and original story details what life was like only 50 years ago in the segregated South, and sheds light on the complex relationships between African American maids and their white employers. It's one thing to study the civil rights movement and read about the events that helped everyone, including African Americans, receive their Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. It's another to hear about real people and what they went through. While fiction, the stories of Aibileen, Minnie, and the other maids personalize in a vivid manner what life was like in the Deep South for African Americans not that long ago. Similarly, Hilly, Elisabeth, and the other white women give readers an idea of the deep racism held by white people during that time. Stockett effectively portrays the contradiction that the maids effectively raised the white children, but could not use the same bathroom as their white employers. Skeeter, a white woman who is a recent college graduate, has had enough of the immoral racism of her peers, and she sets out to learn and share the stories of the maids. The story is compelling and well told.

For me, "The Help" is in a similar genre as "To Kill a Mockingbird," and I mean that as high praise. A wonderful portrayal of humanity. 10 of 10.


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