Wednesday, November 03, 2010
First Wednesday Book Review Club, November 3, 2010
THE HELP, Kathryn Stockett
I read THE HELP for my book group. All of us (6) agreed it was a good read. We'd never given enough thought to the plight of black women in the nineteen sixties in the South. Few books before THE HELP gave that particular topic much thought. It might be alluded to here and there in books like TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD or A MEMBER OF THE WEDDING but not as a primary topic of concern by a white writer.
And yet, we had little to talk about this month. Certainly, we agreed that the African-American women in Jackson, Mississippi had been used and abused as servants in white households. Paid too little, worked too hard, loved too little by their employers, dismissed for minor reasons. Any number of indignities were forced on them.
Now I am going to cover my head as I say this but when it came down to it, it was the white woman in the book who stuck in our minds. Why? Not because she was worthy of more print but because the writer gave her more, fleshed her out beyond her black sisters. The black women were largely viewed in their role as servants. Ironic, huh? But who am I to argue with the thousands of resoundingly good reviews on Amazon?
I must come back to this: why is the one white woman in THE HELP given so much time? Why are the black women shown only in their roles as housekeepers, nannies.
Instead it is Skeeter and her trouble with her mother, boyfriend and publisher that stand out. Why couldn't we hear more about the servants' home lives? Why didn't their stories drive the plot rather than their grievances? Sorry to repeat myself here.
This book was certainly worth reading. It would have been better had it been written by Toni Morrison or Alice Walker. A black woman should have told this story and subjected the white women to minor roles. We didn't need a white woman to tell their stories. They have their own voices.
Find more book reviews at Barrie Summy's place.