Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Help

The Help is fiction, however the author, Kathryn Stockett, says the following about what prompted her to write the book (which by the way, took her 5 years and has already sold 5 million copies):

"Growing up in Mississippi, almost every family I knew had a black woman working in their house--cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the white children. That was life in Mississippi. I was young and assumed that's how most of America lived.

When I moved to New York, though, I realized my "normal" wasn't quite the same as the rest of America's. I knew a lot of Southerners in the city, and every now and then we'd talk about what we missed from the South. Inevitably, somebody would start talking about the maid they grew up with, some little thing that made us all remember--Alice's good hamburgers or riding in the back seat to take Willy May home. Everybody had a story to tell."

Unlike my Mom, I haven't read The Help, but yesterday we went to see the movie. Both of us were moved to tears. We would highly recommend it. What on earth must it have felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi in the 1960's? I don't know for sure, but I bet the movie accurately portrays what many African-American maids experienced, and it was shameful.

I actually grew up with maids in the late 1950's and early 1960's while living in the Panama Canal Zone. My Mom was amazed to learn that one could hire a part-time maid for $15 a month for three days a week. For the most part my memories are vague, being limited to a few unusual home remedies the maids used on me (raw eggs in my hair to make it shinier!) However, there was one Panamanian maid I remember very well, and her name was Lucy. She actually moved in with my family, and she and I shared a bedroom. I loved her like a sister and she was treated with complete respect by my family. I can't imagine it being any other way and am so thankful I never knew the reality of prejudice in much of the south in the 1960's. My Mom and Dad thought of Lucy like a daughter, and wanted to bring her back to the states with us, but she chose to get married and stay in Panama. I missed her for a long time, much like the children who formed strong bonds with maids in The Help.

I intend to read the book, but for now let me say the movie was thought-provoking and caused my Mom and I to take a look back to a time when segregation was a way of life, and feelings were often not taken into account if the color of one's skin was anything other than white. I pray we never made Lucy feel inferior, but prejudice rears its ugly head in many ways, and most of us could probably be found guilty at one time or another.

Would love to hear your perspective on the book or movie. Please take the time to comment.


  1. how neat that you have a personal connection to this story. i am in the middle of reading the book now. love it.

  2. Oh I just loved the book, I can't wait to go see the movie. Hopefully I can go next week with Lacey!!

  3. I very much enjoyed the book and definitely remember having help when I was growing up. My mama was a teacher and my parents hired "colored" women to take care of me and my sibblings until my youngest sister was about 3 years old (I was 13). I have very fond memories of Thes and Gladys for sure and they too were welcomed and treated as family by my parents. Neither were married or had children of their own, so we became their children...and disciplined us as so too! The book really made me realize just how much prejudice was alive and well in the South, which I am from. However, what hurt me the most in the book was not the help, but the white mothers and how it was portrayed that they indeed did not raise their own children but left it up to the "help" that was not even good enough to use the same bathroom but were good enough to raise their children. Such a sad statement of what prejudice can do in society. I am not sure if I will see the movie but I am certainly glad I read the book! Sorry for my book here :)

  4. I'm going to see this movie tomorrow afternoon with some girlfriends. We also had maids in the 1960s growing up in Georgia and I do not ever recall any disrespect of them. My mother and her siblings were raised in the 1930s with a black mammy who lived in the house.

  5. I read the book last week and appreciated the insight I gained. A few days after finishing it, My family was invited to a dinner party. While in the kitchen helping clean up I overheard two women, Stay-at home-moms, complaining about their hispanic maids. It took a lot of control to not blurt out that they should be thankful for the help and that they should see my house after battling cancer for three years. How easy it would have made my life if I could have afforded a maid to come in each week. I think reading the book had something to do with my thoughts on that occasion.

  6. I'm so glad you enjoyed the movie. I loved the book and cried several times. Hopefully I can see the movie soon!