If you’re not familiar with the storyline of The Help, here’s the basics. It follows three women in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. Two of them, Aibileen and Minny are black women, maids to the white women of the city. The third is one of those white women – Skeeter Phelan, whose plan for her own life is very different from her mother’s. She wants to be a reporter, a real writer. When a New York publisher tells her to write about something that bothers her, she comes up with the idea to write a book telling the maids’ stories. What is it like to work for the white women of Jackson? To be told that you are diseased so you can’t use the indoors bathroom? To be expected to clean the house perfectly while taking care of the children? Aibileen and Minny know how dangerous this project will be, while Skeeter is discovering a whole new side to what she thought was reality.
I grew up in a time and place where racism wasn’t really a problem. I know our country isn’t perfect now when it comes to this area. But I just was blown away by how far we’ve come in the past fifty years. I have no doubt that this was these women’s reality. They feared for their lives and for their families if they spoke out. I can’t imagine living like that, and I have so much respect for those that did.
The Help brings this time period to life for those of us who didn’t live through it. Kathryn Stockett views the issue of racism through so many people’s eyes – the fresh college graduate determined to change the world, the older generation that can’t see anything wrong with the way things are, the younger generation determined to keep the status quo no matter what, the maids who give their lives to these families only to be treated like nothing, the maids who love the white children as their own, and all who were determined to take a stand despite the danger and their fear. It was really this that sold me on this book. It’s not a one-sided look at life in the South in the 1960s. It covers as much ground and as many perspectives as it can. This is one of the many reasons why reading this book is most definitely worth your time. And there is no doubt of that – reading this book is most definitely worth your time. Everyone can learn something from this book, whether you lived through the 1960s or not. Kathryn Stockett’s story is one that needs to be read.