THE HELP by author Kathleen Stockett tells the story of a group of black maids working for white families before the term Civil Rights was ever born. Before the race riots. On the cusp of when the southern part of our country erupted into a period of hate that spread across the nation.
As I moved into the story of the complicated lives of these women, I could taste their joy and smell their fear emanating from the pages. I felt their heartbeats. Their unease became mine. At times, I felt the need to look over my shoulder.
This book is much more than fiction. It’s the many faceted tale of what really went on in the South. It was a time when black children were turned away from white schools, while their black mothers were at the homes of those white children baking bread for their supper and rocking their little sisters and brothers.
At the time, I was growing up in West Virginia, sitting happily in the safety of my living room watching bandstand with Dick Clark.
Until the news started breaking in on my shows, telling stories of unfathomable events - only then did I sit up and take notice. Blacks were being stopped from crossing a certain barrier while white people stood on the other side with clubs and rocks. I watched in horror as black men and women were dragged through the streets, screaming and crying, as policemen hit them with nightsticks. Protecting territory meant for white folk only: public schools, public pools, public libraries, public restrooms. Public? Not really.
These whites were not just politicians but included the rich and poor. The common thought was that “they” controlled the South. They demanded two lists of rules. One for whites. One for blacks.
I realized early on, I had nothing in common with these white people except the color of my skin.
Reading this book brought back those memories and drove home the fact that we humans can survive terrible adversity if we can keep hope alive. And those women, did they ever have hope!
I will not soon forget THE HELP. The story made me determined to be a better person. To help make the world a better place, to give a kind word, a helping hand, be more accepting of the differences in our world today.
I must thank Kathleen Stockett for letting the words of Miss Skeeter, Aibileen, Minny and the other characters pour from her veins onto the page for us to share.
I know this essay doesn’t come anywhere near being a proper review of this many layered novel. This is simply what I felt about it.