"Every morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision . . . You gone have to ask yourself, Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?"
Have you ever read one of those books that you thought, "I'm gonna have my kids read this when they're old enough. They need to know about this."
I have, plenty of times, and this book is one of those.
Okay, to be honest, I'm going to try to make my kids read every single book I halfway enjoyed growing up, because I want them to adore reading as much as I do. Still, this book made me think, "I want my future children to understand that this is the way things were and that it was wrong."
That's the way I felt about The Book Thief and that's the way I feel about The Help.
The Help is Kathryn Stockett's first novel, but one could never tell by looking at the masterful use of her words and the wonderful roundness each of her characters seems to possess. Published in 2009, it has already become a #1 New York Times Bestseller and had its movie adaptation hit the big screen (with some big name actresses, no less).
This book follows the path of three women, two colored and one white, during the early 1960s. Set in Jackson, Mississippi at a time when men and women were liable to get beaten for using the wrong bathroom or fraternizing with someone whose skin color was too different from their own. It's enough to make a person ill thinking about it. (I wrote a post about racial discrimination on my other blog inspired by my reading of this book. You can find it here: Less than Human)
Each of these women has their own lives and their own troubles to fight through. Skeeter is constantly being criticized by her mother and snubbed by the people who were supposed to be her friends. Minny's trying to find work in spite of a crazy white lady doing her best to get her run out of town, not to mention the fact that her husband is getting steadily more abusive as the story progresses. And Aibileen is trying to teach the white girl she nannies that colored people are only different on the outside as well as convincing the girl that just because her mother doesn't care much for her, that doesn't mean she isn't worthwhile.
When Skeeter, the aspiring journalist, realizes the treatment of the help in most white home is both disturbing and demeaning, she gets the idea to write a book. If she can get interviews from the women who have to deal with raising other women's children and cleaning their homes, while being treated like they're stupid and basically nothing more than well-trained animals; maybe people will see the errors of their ways. Skeeter realizes that maybe this book could make a difference in the lives of the colored women who are mistreated on a daily basis. But this venture is more dangerous than she ever could have realized and each of these women have to put themselves out on a very unsteady limb to do this. But maybe change is worth it and maybe they just might get the help that they need.
This book was a joy to read and, honestly, a must-read -- especially for those that think that racism isn't that big of a deal, a thing of the past, or something that happened a long time ago. This was a mere fifty years ago and, while we've come a long way in that time, we still have quite a ways to go.
"Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."