Dr. mOe's Book Review of THE HELP

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THE HELP by K. Stockett Is A Good Read!
by Monica "Dr. mOe" Anderson
Published 8/4/11 on www.soulciti.com

The fact that the author is white and was raised by her family’s African-American help in Jackson, Mississippi has been a source of more than a little controversy about the book and soon to be released movie of the same name...

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Dr. mOe's Book Review of THE HELP

  1. 1. The Help is a Good ReadMonica "Dr. mOe" Anderson, soulciti.com, August 6, 2011Unlike some reviewers, fans, prognosticators, and haters,I actually read all 444-pages of the #1 New York Timesbest-selling book, “The Help,” by Kathyrn Stockett. "TheHelp" tells the story of relationships between black maidsand their white employers during the height of the CivilRights Movement. The fact that the author is white andwas raised by her family’s African-American help inJackson, Mississippi has been a source of more than alittle controversy about the book and soon to be releasedmovie of the same name.Before I opine, you need a few facts about me. I am amulti-published novelist, avid reader, African-American,native Texan, cultural historian, repeated victim ofracism/sexism/regionalism, a former Junior Leaguer,practicing dentist, and the granddaughter of not one butthree strong Southern black women who lectured me onthe ways of “white folks” from the time I learned to say“y’all” and “yes, ma’am.” So let’s just say I’m not particularly partial to an author just because Iknow how hard it is to write and publish a book. Nor, am I inclined to have a knee-jerk negativereaction because someone white employs black dialect to convey a third person point of view.“The Help” is set in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1962. The main character, 23-year-old, Eugenia“Skeeter” Phelan recently graduated from Ole Miss with dreams of becoming a famous journalistin New York. Her mother, Mrs. Charlotte, is disappointed that her daughter came home with adegree instead of an engagement ring. From Mrs. Charlotte’s Husband-Hunting guide we learn“Rule Number One: a pretty, petite girl should accentuate with makeup and good posture” asSkeeter is very plain and tall, her mother believes her only hope is hair gel and “a trust fund.”The chasm between the attitudes of mother and daughter is filled with more than disparate viewson marriage. For starters, Mama Phelan and no one else in town will provide curious Skeeterwith a satisfactory explanation of the mysterious disappearance of Constantine, the maid wholovingly raised Skeeter and her brother. This dark secret is alluded to throughout the book by themaids Skeeter interviews when she decides to undertake the dangerous mission of writing aground-breaking novel about the prevailing racial and class barriers from the perspective of thehelp.
  2. 2. As the novel opens, Skeeter lands a job writing a helpful domestic hints column for the localpaper. Because she takes this assignment knowing nothing about cleaning or cooking, she mustenlist the aid of veteran housekeeper Aibileen who works for Skeeter’s gal pal, Elizabeth. Thisunlikely alliance becomes a friendship as the inherited scales of prejudice fall from Skeetersnaïve eyes during her intimate conversations with Aibileen. Though I found the book well-plotted and fast paced with wonderfully developed characters, you can kind of see where this isgoing.Skeeter’s BFF is the nauseatingly racist president of the local Junior League, Hilly Holbrook.Hilly is pushing an initiative to make every white homeowner build a separate bathroom for thedisease bearing, ignorant maids who raise their children and cook their meals. The attitudes ofthe local white homeowners range from vocal endorsements of Medgar Evers assassination tostealth acts of kindness for a housekeeper who succumbs to illness.I witnessed these confusing turns of behavior as a child accompanying my grandmothers. Once, Iwas too little to reach the recently “unmarked” but most definitely colored fountain in the squaredowntown. A white man I didn’t know kindly picked me up because my grandmother wascarrying packages. Then, he asked my grandmother if she went to the same church as his nig---farm hand. Another time, I was on the floor scrubbing as best as a six-year-old could, trying tohelp my stepfather’s mother with her domestic work for a wealthy family in East Texas. Herboss came home and told me I shouldn’t be doing that and he gave me a book to read while mygrandmother scrubbed the toilets.The geographic location and time period of the novel are skillfully woven into the scenes as bothcharacters and foreboding theme music. Anyone vaguely familiar with the horrors of the CivilRights Movement will, like me, find passages that give you pause, long pauses where I felt afamiliar rage rise through my throat like lava hot bile. Other exchanges made me laugh so hard, Idropped the book and lost my page. The ending is very satisfying but perhaps a bit unrealisticlike many novels, I suppose.Folks, this is less Griffin’s “Black Like Me” and more “Memoirs of a Geisha” (written by awhite male, Arthur Golden) in the sense that the author isn’t trying to represent the authentic“black experience.” Stockett is fictionally recounting her experience of learning that what we, ashumans, have in common far outweighs our superficial class and cultural differences. And ifsome other non-blacks read this book long enough to wonder what it must be like to live in skinthat speaks louder than one’s most eloquent, erudite words ever will, then that’s fine with me.“The Help” is a thought-provoking story that probably will not change the lingering vestiges ofoutrageous social injustice…but it helps.You are invited to join Dr. mOe, soulciti and the Austin Black MBAs at a special previewscreening of The Help on Monday, August 8th at 7:30pm at Regal Metropolitan 14.©2011 Monica F. Anderson. All rights Reserved. www.drmOeanderson.com

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