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.