Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I read this book as I read all books – in bed just before I go to sleep. Usually I devote ½ to 1 hour to such reading. This book? Migod – I went ‘overtime’ – and when I turned out the light, thinking about it kept me awake.

I’m 78 – I remember the 60’s and the things we read about in the paper – the horrors of violence and the irrationality of separate facilities, the black children approaching the white school – their faces blank as catcalls & insults were screamed by the crowd; the whites with faces so distorted with hate that they look like caricatures. The assassinations, the random cruelty and murders – they were only a quick step away from Hitler’s treatment of the Jews.

I’m also a damn Yankee – born & bred - but I have known these women who populate this book. We all do. Today, in the schools, they’re known as the ‘mean girls’ – and when they graduate into home making & motherhood they’re known as ‘queen bees’. In the South of the 50’s and 60’s, their behavior had darker implications. They drew a curtain of gentility over the ugliness of racial relations.
Some people have criticized the author for using dialect for the black women but not for the white, however – it would have been difficult to determine who was speaking – and after all – dialect marked one of the great divides between whites and blacks at the time.

Despite the serious subject of the book, there’s plenty of humor in it and the interactions of the characters– black on black, white on white and mixing the two leads to some interesting and funny situations.

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