Monday, February 7, 2011

Help me, Rhonda

I bought this book for my mom at Christmas with the plan to read it along with her. We sort of accomplished that goal. I had it sooner than she did and I couldn't wait. I was only ahead of her by a couple of days though so it still worked out.

If you can get your hands on this book, you really should give it a read. We tend to only see the heartwarming nostalgia of the "Good Old Days" but the reality is that the seemingly idyllic world of the 50's and 60's was only warm and fuzzy for a select few. Not even being white and somewhat well off guaranteed happiness then.

This book centers on the lives of two groups of women living very different lives in the same Southern town, a handful of white housewives and their black maids. There were a few things that struck me as I was furiously flipping the pages. The first is that the story is set in 1962, the year before my mother was born. Some would have us believe that this is all ancient history but the fact of the matter is it really wasn't that long ago. I'm not sure why people believe racism is dead when just a generation or two ago, white households didn't want to share a toilet seat with the black woman who was raising their children.

The second part that struck me was how difficult it can be to look past the way things always have been and to make your voice heard amongst a group of people who don't see the point of questioning. People you've grown up with can turn on you fairly quickly and fairly viciously when you challenge the status quo.

If you want to know more, you should pick up the book. It's a very quick read, an easy read that still manages to be thought provoking. I'm a huge history buff so this was right up my alley but even if you aren't, I think reading about a topic in a context that we can understand, such as the complex relationships between women can really help you get a feel for something you might otherwise find boring or too complicated.

So go find it.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett


  1. This was a book that I read through in 2 days. I couldn't get enough of it. I totally agree with all the points you raised too. Did your mom like it?

  2. My mom really liked it too. She kept calling me whenever something stuck to her.

    I was originally going to mention how I think I'd be more like Minny than Aibileen. But I realize that was a little lame considering that I didn't grow up in that world. How much of our personality is shaped by nurture anyway?

  3. I read this recently. I really liked it. But I was a little unsure about Aibileen's character - how much of it was idealized by the author. I wasn't sure how much the whole self-esteem boosting thing was believable for the 60s, even if Aibee was a loving, nurturing type.

  4. I liked it, too! We read it for our book club last year and it was by far the best discussion we've ever had over a book. I thought two things were curious about it though: every single black male in it was sort of a "bad guy", and (as Ibis already said) Aibee was a little too perfect.

    Did you know that Emma Stone is playing Skeeter in the movie?

  5. IDK, Ibis. I would imagine that since the relationship was much closer to mother and child than merely a day care provider, that children were often much more closer to their parents' maid, it doesn't seem very far off.

    I didn't know they were making a movie, Mary Grace but I adore Emma Stone so I'm sure she'll do well.



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