by Kathryn Stockett
Genres: Fiction, Drama
It is Mississippi in the early 1960's. Segregation, racism, and the KKK are a reality and in full force. One white woman sees the inhumanity in the segregation laws and wants to make a difference. She wants to right a wrong. With the help of one very brave black woman, they organize an expose in the form of a collection of stories that tell of a kind employer who treat "the help" with respect or help them in some way. Many are tell all stories that reveal how the maids are treated as sub-human. There are stories of heartbreak, of the white children that the maids raise and love as their own until the children grow up and become their parents - believing that people are less-than only because of skin color.
While my situation was different of course, I can kind of relate to this concept. It wasn't until I was in my 20's and grieving the loss of my great-grandmother that I found out that she wasn't actually related to us. This information was only revealed because my mother was having problems settling the estate due to the lack of legal relationship. I had been very close to my great-grandmother and I was floored to find out that she had "only" been the housekeeper that had raised my grandmother after her own mother had passed away. My great-grandmother was the woman who watched me after school. Even though in her 80's, she took me in and dealt with my teenage attitude and grief when my father was too ill to listen to my brother and I constantly bickering. It was she who told me and comforted me when my dad passed away. It was my great-grandmother that I had gone to in high school when I ran away from home. While this new information rattled me, I realized that it didn't change the woman that she was, or my love for her. Her portrait, to this day, hangs on my living room wall next to my mother's.
The Help is an incredibly powerful and well written story about the fear and loyalty these relationships between employer and servant created based entirely on attitude. I think many people could learn something from this book as it makes us look at situations from both sides. Even if all one learns is to treat a waitress or secretary with a little more kindness and gratitude. They are people too after all.