Monday, August 8, 2011

The Help

Published by Penguin Books

The Help was highly recommended by several friends in addition to the interest raised by the upcoming movie. Frankly, I began reading without knowing what the book was about. I just knew that it would be good.

The Help tells the story of what it was like to be an African-American maid in white households in Jackson, Mississippi as Civil Rights were heating up. The interesting part is that it is told from three points of view: two different maids – Minny and Aibileen- and one young, privileged while woman – Miss Skeeter.

Much of the book was eye-opening for me, even though I was raised in the South. My family did not have a maid growing up, although I do remember a neighbor's maid coming and cleaning occasionally. The only maid I really remember was one who worked for my grandmother in Jacksonville, Florida. Her name was Rosalie. I remember her doing some ironing and my mother's comment that all Rosalie did was move dust around. I wonder today how well she was treated and paid by my grandmother. My guess is not well, although I do think my grandparents helped her and her family in other ways (my grandfather was a builder and mechanic).

While reading, I found myself skipping ahead three or four times, which is very unlike me. I like to be surprised by the text. However, I kept expecting a negative outcome. I kept thinking there was going to be some major bloodshed or violent repercussions. So, I kept skipping ahead. I'll let you read the book and find out how right my expectations were.

What did this book have to do with my faith? A close reading of the bible tells me that God is the God of justice. Treating another human being as less than you (for example, making them use a different bathroom because you think they are diseased) is being prejudiced. Although the book showed me how far we Caucasians have come in terms of treating African-Americans, I do see how much of those Southern ideals of blacks and whites are still around today in much more subtle forms. How often do I act with someone of a different skin color as though they are not as good as I? When I do, that is sin. This book reminded me of my own prejudices that are just beneath the surface and the sinful behavior that may occur without my even realizing it.

I do highly recommend The Help, although I don't think it will make my top ten books for the year. One of the main reasons is that the book was written by a white woman. Stockett did an excellent job telling the story but she is still white. It makes me wonder if the story was still a bit polished. Did she leave out more dirt and violence because of her own background and point of view? I would love some feedback from those of you who are African-American!

Happy reading!


Copyright 2011 Amelia G. Sims

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