Looks like from Amazon reviews that this book is relatively terrible.. couldn't tell from looking at it in the bookstore. Drat! Well, I'll look at thrLooks like from Amazon reviews that this book is relatively terrible.. couldn't tell from looking at it in the bookstore. Drat! Well, I'll look at through it atleast, since I have it..
I was afraid it would be either content-free and instead full of innuendo and/or fashion commentary or something; or totally politically biased against them, or whatnot.
But I was very pleasantly surprised. What it does is, for each phase of Michelle's life, it gives a perspective on the racial context into which she entered in that phase. So, her high school was a new experiment in diversity, and her college - Affirmative Action was a big debate at the time, and so on. I found those parts really fascinating. Of course it's not the be-all and end-all truth about any of the situations, just one perspective; and as such, very interesting.
Then Barack comes into the picture, and it becomes more about them, and her in relation to him; which is not really surprising or anything, but different. The Barack storyline is a very fascinating one. And part of the story was about how her story is backgrounded to his, and there's commentary on that.
It all feels like, not THE truth necessarily, but an in-the-ballpark telling of mostly well-known aspects of their lives, all brought together in one volume. In a good way. Useful to me, as I didn't read so much about them at the time in order to not jinx it (or something).
If only it were authorized, I'd feel so much better. I understand there is something else coming out that is authorized, will read that for sure as well. ...more
Perfect for my transit journeys this next week. Her 'Their Eyes' still resonates from when I re-read it last fall, am delighted to have more to read oPerfect for my transit journeys this next week. Her 'Their Eyes' still resonates from when I re-read it last fall, am delighted to have more to read of her.
Have read 5 or 6 so far, I really like them. Have been reading anthologies of short stories and so on for the last several months, and hers are definitely among my favorite. They don't throw me around too much, they match up information provided with information required well, they have a full, rich flavor that is very accessible, there is a great story arc to each one, full characters despite the short story format: all adds up to sublime delight.
Marking as read, but there is more there for next time..
'The Help' is one of those gently brutal books that makes it possible to sit still for the telling of a terrible reality. It is about women in the Sou'The Help' is one of those gently brutal books that makes it possible to sit still for the telling of a terrible reality. It is about women in the South in the 60's.. turning on the dynamics between the white housewifes and the black women who were their maids and nursemaids. This book rips away the veil on this set of amazinly intricate emotional interactions.
For, you see, these ‘maids’ are also entrusted with the children of the household had the option/opportunity/requirement of caring - really caring- for the children. Yet, the parents were racist. Yet the children weren’t yet. While the children grew up though, they would slowly imbibe the mindset of their parents and community.. and in their eyes, the black woman who had been often their most favorite adult would be transformed into someone ‘stupid,’ ‘dirty,’ and ‘bad,’ to the heartbreak of the women themselves.
Partly this affects me perhaps because of my teenager, who has provided a first-hand lesson on how relationships are transformed as the child ages. There is a natural separating of course. But to go through that transition when the end point is that much more brutal.. mutiple times. really hard to imagine.
And yet the central character of this book, Aibileen, has done just that. She raised 17 white children, and in nearly every case, they turned against her to some degree starting at around 10.
And she was somehow able to go ahead and begin that journey again with the next one. How? How could she do that? How could she open herself to love that new baby, love it with all her heart, focus on filling every need and healing every owie or illness.. when it isn’t even hers, and she knows more likely then not they’re going to turn from her when they become aware of things? That sort of strong tenderness is among the main flavors of this story.
But Aibileen does find that ability slipping away from her, mainly when her one child of her own - her son Treelore, died at age 24 in an accident at work. After a brutal grieving period, she comes into another household, begins to bond with another child, and that is where the story of ‘The Help’ begins.
The second of the three alternating first-person points of view in this book is that of Minny, the quintessential ‘angry black woman,’ one of the richest characterizations I’ve ever read. What she endures, what she does when she breaks, and how she keeps going and eventually makes a mind-boggling sacrifice for her community - these aspects and others coalesce the character of Minny into as full a human being as ever has been in literature.
The third character is ‘Skeeter,’ a white woman who has just returned from gaining her degree at college to find out that her beloved nursemaid, Constantine, has disappeared. It’s unclear if she quit or was fired, nobody will tell Skeeter what happened, and she’s crushed because they had written all throughout Skeeter’s college years and had corresponded last only weeks before Skeeter’s homecoming. How something so amazing and dramatic could happen in such a short period is beyong Skeeter’s comprehension.
Skeeter’s desire to write for a living is the thread that draws these three women together. Initially they obey the lines drawn by their community across their lives, and follow the rules of distrusting each other and expecting the worst. In time, as their lives intertwine, all of them progress through a series of changes. Those intimate, personal changes are set against a backdrop of the social change taking place around them - in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Which, according to the Governor, is ‘heaven on earth’ and he has no intention of allowing change to occur.
What I realized as I read this book was that I had no picture in my mind of the white women in the South at that period. The only films I’d seen - like ‘Mississippi Burning’ or ‘Paris, Texas’ or ‘A family Thing’ of ‘The Long Walk Home’ included female main characters who were conscientious and passively entrenched in the way things were, but not actively involved in it. In ‘The Help,’ a very different reality is illuminated.
And through the course of the book, the choking fear that Minny and Aibileen and the others like them is described and substantiated and fully realized. Which showed me (more than I’d known before) again just how deep the pot of pain is between the races here in the US. How much there is to move through and heal. I believe that this book plays a vital role in that process, by saying out loud that which is more powerful when silent.
One of the main cornerstones of this story is the tenacious drive of Hilly (best friend of Skeeter and daughter of the woman who Minny takes care of) to pass the ‘Home Help Sanitation Initiative’ - a bill that would require every white home in Mississipp to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. Her reasoning? That Colored folks carry diseases different from white people, and white people don’t have immunity to those diseases. Miss Hilly is the personal face of batshit crazy hating people, and this story kinds of arches off from her in various directions. She forms the nucleus of personality that explains much of the South, in particular the Jim Crow laws and other manifestations of bigotry and tyranny.
Skeeter at one point discovers a pamphlet of those laws at the library, and reads:
It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person. Any marriage in violation of this section shall be void. No colored barber shall serve as a barber to white women or girls. Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them. The Board shall maintain a separate building on separate grounds for the instruction of all blind persons of the colored race.
Skeeter, reading these laws in a pamphlet she found at a library, thinks, ‘Negroes and whites are not allowed to share water fountains, movie houses, public restrooms, ballparks, phone booths, circus shoes. Negroes cannot use the same pharmacy or buy postage stamps at the same window as me. … We all know about these laws, we live here, but we don’t talk about them.’
And as Skeeter, returned from college, sees her community with eyes that are more and more open, she sees the wider pattern of oppression extending into the actions of those who had been close to her. She becomes more and more separate from all she had known and all of the identities she had created for herself. Aibileen continues to deal with the death of her son, while loving the little girl she cares for who’s mother, Elizabth Leefoldt, is best friends with Skeeter and Miss Hilly. Minny, who Miss Hilly has fired when she puts her mother away, finds a new situation thankfully - but one with many challenges. To her gratitude, since her husband’s salary is not enough to support them and their five children, ages 17 to 5.
The ending of this book disappointed me, but it may be an instance where there’s no way it could have ended that I’d be comfortable with. I very very much want to continue reading these three first-person accounts, I want to know what happens next in all three of their lives.
Also though I had expected the author to tie in what the characters were going through with the bigger picture, right there at the end. She did do that earlier in the book - the assassination of Medger Evans is set right smack in the middle of this story, and Minny and Aibileen are both very much affected by it. More than any of the white characters of course. But I was waiting to see if the author would tie the bigger picture to the sorts of personal changes in the book or not - and she didn’t. Not in the way I wanted. Which was some complete sociological inventory of how much each component of the community changed over a 5-year timegraph, numerically.. I guess that’s a bit unrealistic? Sigh.. That topic, of the interplay between personal change and community change completely fascinates me.
Anyway, this book is a superb mixture of intense content and gentle, sweet delivery. Highly recommend! ...more
Sounds really interesting as far as that subject, and racism, and voting patterns today yet even. Not sure I'll make it to actually reading it unlessSounds really interesting as far as that subject, and racism, and voting patterns today yet even. Not sure I'll make it to actually reading it unless the optimal conditions present themselves, but sure sounds like I'd like to have....more
Living in Connecticut during my High School years, I was aware of the ambiance around places like Sag Harbor.. I wonder if this book will confirm/denyLiving in Connecticut during my High School years, I was aware of the ambiance around places like Sag Harbor.. I wonder if this book will confirm/deny one of my growing beliefs that blacks growing up in affluence receive the very clear message that they will be well rewarded for choosing the socially-conservative community as home. I included the shelf 'cities' because, for a lot of elite in the bigger cities, a place like Sag Harbor is a big part of their lives....more
I'd come across references to this in the past, and never knew what was being talked about, and didn't learn myself. So finally now, thanks to the CCLI'd come across references to this in the past, and never knew what was being talked about, and didn't learn myself. So finally now, thanks to the CCLaP 100 in particular, I'm learning about it. http://www.cclapcenter.com/2007/12/pe... Sounds just fascinating, so many content areas could be explored from this: race being the most important aspect of Nat's life, related to whether Styron had the 'right' to write about him (vs. other aspects, universal to whites, being most important); the ability of anyone to write such a thing about someone else; the particular choices Styron made (in particular about the rape fantasy, I for one think it would be a strenuous process that would end with my agreeing with that choice); the change in awareness of Nat Turner and the rebellion caused by this book (good? bad? useful? to what? etc..); a zillion things related to religion; etc.. etc..; race various, etc.. Probably a case of related readings being almost necessary as well.....more
First section of my daughter's English class is all about Gwendolyn. Can't wait to read her finally (separately from my daughter of course, I just amFirst section of my daughter's English class is all about Gwendolyn. Can't wait to read her finally (separately from my daughter of course, I just am re-doing my high school learning experience now, with her much-better curriculum. We sometimes chat for a second or two about this or that, but basically I read her assigned works for thoroughly selfish reasons....more
Have been looking forward to reading this from my shelves for a long time. For when I can be a bit more active/write a bit more; or not have more timeHave been looking forward to reading this from my shelves for a long time. For when I can be a bit more active/write a bit more; or not have more time for those things, but can think about it even .. more.....more
I had thought, reading it, that it was written by a black person. Back before the internet was so ubiquitous, and it was slightly harder to determineI had thought, reading it, that it was written by a black person. Back before the internet was so ubiquitous, and it was slightly harder to determine such things. Still, that's no excuse. Will experience it differently on re-read, if I ever do.
I read a bit in a library of a book about Spike Lee, and particularly about the making of the film of this- and that Spike Lee really wanted to capture the non-glamour parts of this life, which the book did so well at. So there's one vote for the validity of it, from not just anyone.
It was very interesting to me to see into that life, since, as a Terrible City person, that life is adjacent to my life for the time being.. (till we all move forward with valid solutions or whatever is involved, etc..). Naive/etc as that sounds.....more
Ok, this came out while I was deep into parenting and career hilarity and what, but still; surprised I never heard of it. Looks very interesting especOk, this came out while I was deep into parenting and career hilarity and what, but still; surprised I never heard of it. Looks very interesting especially today after reading 'Dreams from my Father'!...more
This author is among those mentioned by President Obama in his book, 'Dreams From my Father.' And soon I'd like to read it, for that reason and all thThis author is among those mentioned by President Obama in his book, 'Dreams From my Father.' And soon I'd like to read it, for that reason and all the others.....more