Sparrow's Reviews > The Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
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Oct 21, 12

bookshelves: abandoned, reviewed, disturbing, punching-tour
Recommended to Sparrow by: Linda Harrison, Gibney
Recommended for: read Coming of Age in Mississippi instead, please
Read from July 20 to 25, 2010

I have this terrible, dreary feeling in my diaphragm area this morning, and I’m not positive what it’s about, but I blame some of it on this book, which I am not going to finish. I have a friend who is mad at me right now for liking stupid stuff, but the thing is that I do like stupid stuff sometimes, and I think it would be really boring to only like smart things. What I don’t like is when smart (or even middle-brained) writers take an important topic and make it petty through guessing about what they don’t know. I can list you any number of these writers who would be fine if they weren't reaching into topics about which they have no personal experience (incidentally, all writers I'm pretty sure my angry friend loves. For example, The Lovely Bones, The Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, Memoirs of a Geisha, etc.). These are the books for which I have no patience, topics that maybe someone with more imagination or self-awareness could have written about compassionately, without exploiting the victimization of the characters. They’re books that hide lazy writing behind a topic you can’t criticize. The Help is one of these.

You’ve got this narrative telephone game in this book. The telephone game is pretty fun sometimes, and it is really beautiful in monster stories like Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights because what they are telling me is not intended as trustworthy or earnest. All of the seriousness in monster stories is an impression or an emotion reflected back through the layers of narrative. I don’t feel that way about the topic of The Help, though. In this book, a white woman writes from the point of view of a black woman during the Civil Rights movement, who overhears the conversations of white women. It's an important topic, and I don't want to hear it through untrustworthy narrators.

So, I can basically get on board with the dialect of the black maids, but what throws me off as a reader is when the black maid is quoting the white women and they’re all speaking perfect English without a trace of an accent. It becomes particularly weird when one of the black maids starts to comment on the extreme accent of one of the white women, Celia Foote, whose written dialogue continues to be impeccable. Who is this narrator? Why does she choose not to speak proper English if she can speak it? Why does she choose to give proper English to someone else who she has told me doesn't speak it? Also, usually the layers of narration in a telephone-game book are only within the book. In this case, it’s the author’s voice stabbing through the story. I am convinced it is her whose brain hears the white woman speaking TV English, and the black women speaking in dialect. It gives away the game.

Even the quotes from the movie have an example of this. A conversation between her and Minnie goes like this:

Celia Foote: They don't like me because of what they think I did.
Minny Jackson: They don't like you 'cause they think you white trash.

Celia speaks in a proper sentence, but Minny misses the "are" in the second part of the sentence. Celia says "because," but Minny says "'cause." If the reader were supposed to understand that Celia does not speak in dialect, that would make sense, but since it specifically states that she does, it doesn't make sense.

To attempt to be clear, I didn't have a problem that the book was in dialect. I had a problem that the book said, "This white woman speaks in an extreme dialect," and then wrote the woman's dialog not in dialect. Aerin points out in message 111 that I am talking about eye dialect, which is about spelling, not pronunciation, as in the example above. Everyone, in real life, speaks in some form of non-standard English. Though I have seen some really beautiful uses of eye dialect, as Aerin points out, writers typically use it to show subservience of characters or that they are uneducated, which often has racist overtones. If it troubles you that I'm saying this, and you would like to comment on this thread, you may want to read other comments because it is likely someone has already said what you are going to say.

I’m not finishing this one, and it’s not because I think people shouldn’t like it, but rather because I’m almost 100 pages in and I can see the end, and it’s failed to engage me. When a few IRL friends have asked what I thought of the book and I said I didn't care for it, they have told me that I am taking it too seriously, that it is just a silly, fluff book, not a serious study of Civil Rights. Again, I don’t have a problem with stupid books, but when it’s a stupid book disguised as an Important Work of Cultural History, all I want to do the whole time is tear its mask off. And a book about Civil Rights is always important cultural history to me. Anyway, the book becomes unpleasant; I become unpleasant; it’s bad news. If you loved this book, though, (or, really, even if you hated it) I would recommend Coming of Age in Mississippi. I think that book is one of the more important records of American history. Plus, it’s beautifully written, inspirational, and shocking. It's been years since I read it, so I might be giving it an undeserved halo, but I can’t say enough good things about it.

INDEX OF PROBLEMS WITH THIS REVIEW

"You should finish the book before you talk about it": comment 150 (second paragraph); comments 198 and 199.

“Stockett did experience the Civil Rights Era”: comment 154; comment 343.

“The author of The Lovely Bones was raped”: comment 190.

“The author of The Kite Runner is from Afghanistan”: comment 560.

"Memoirs of a Geisha is accurate and not comparable to The Help": comment 574.

“Don’t be so critical!”: comment 475.

“Have you written a bestseller?”: comment 515.

“Fiction doesn’t have to be a history lesson”: comments 157 through 162.

“Having grown up in the South during this era and having had a maid, I could relate to the emotional nuances of this book”: comments 222 and 223.

"Minny and Aibileen are relatable": comment 626

“You are trying to silence authors”: comment 317 and comments 306 through 316.

“Why do you want to read a Civil Rights book about racism and hatred? I would prefer one about friendship and working together”: comment 464.

“Why are there so many votes for such a half-assed review?”: comment 534.

“Authors can write outside of their personal experiences”: comments 569 through 587.
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Reading Progress

07/24/2010 page 63
14.0% "This feels really Ya Ya Sisterhood to me. I don't know if I should give up or not."
07/25/2010 page 85
19.0% "Not for me." 2 comments

Comments (showing 201-250 of 754) (754 new)


message 201: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 25, 2011 11:57AM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Yes! She could have sued ANYWHERE!! Sheesh. They would have personal jurisdiction in California because the book sells there and the movie shows there. I'm pretty sure a court would find personal jurisdiction anywhere the book sells. That would be inconvenient for witnesses, maybe, though. But, Mississippi doesn't even have a right to publicity law it looks like. Maybe the judge will find it in common law, though.


message 202: by Jessica (new)

Jessica bad advice from her lawyer, then--


message 203: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Yeah, that's what it sounds like. :( I'll have to think about it more, though, because maybe there is some reason I'm not thinking of that they need to sue there.


message 204: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara I've been looking a lot into this case too, wow... but I did find an interview where she discusses a family maid who worked for her grandparents and aunt and "raised" she and the other grandchildren. Actually a great interview, good stuff.
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?i...


message 205: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Dang! I can't watch the video until probably tomorrow. That's so funny because, were I the maid's attorney, I would use that interview as evidence that she's using the maid's likeness.


message 206: by Amber (new) - added it

Amber Lloyd I can understand where you're coming from with the dialect thing (the part where I left off in reading your super-long review of this story), but I have to say that it's very hard to write a story with dialect in it. Mark Twain got by with it alright, and even JK Rowling a bit (the only two examples I can come up with right now), but I feel this author was only trying to get some people to relate to a time they weren't born in, and I'm proud of that. She may have had no experience with it, but it's good people (writers) make an attempt at writing things they never went through personally because then it can give people broader imagination with things; it gives more to creativity. What I also mean to point out is, she most certainly must have done a lot of research, which helps where experience is lost. And when it comes to Memoirs of a Geisha (the only book on your list that I read), the writer did a lot of research. He interviewed an actual Geisha, and I must say, that is not lazy writing. I'm not arguing with your opinion on the story--you have really good points!--but I just take offense to calling books "lazy writing" when you aren't completely aware of how much work actually went into it. Call me a defender or those who can't. [But, please, in no way be offended.]


message 207: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 25, 2011 10:12PM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Well, that's fine. I think Memoirs of a Geisha relies on a lot of gimmicks towards the end and it's difficult for me to imagine any woman having the reactions the main character does in that part of the story, so that felt like laziness to me. I don't remember it super well, but I remember there being a lot of enormous coincidences to pull off a happy ending. It seemed like he could have just written a story from the point of view of a man if all he ultimately wanted was a happily-ever-after story. Maybe lazy writing is different to us, though, and that's fine.

See message 194 and 111 for the other things you're talking about. I don't think she did the dialect badly, I just think she did it racistly, and I do think reaching beyond our experiences is good, but it's unfortunate when it comes off in a racist manner.

I guess, partly what I'm saying is that it is not different to me to say "black people are stupid and only think about white people all day," than it is to say "black people are stupid and only think about white people all day because of economic circumstances." I think it's fundamentally false to say that no matter whether you're saying that's just how black people are, or that's just how poor people are. It seems incorrect either way.


message 208: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen There is a hurricane headed towards me. I am still feeling after-shocks from an earthquake. And what am I doing?

Not buying bread or charcoal or candles or things like that.

Right now I'm worrying instead about those comments from Elizabeth and you- the comments about how fiction a fiction can be, or is, or should be. How a story can feel false even if it's true or rings true even if false. And I'll be worrying about this and thinking on it after my lights go out and don't come back on for a good while. So that will be my Amish weekend- hanging out laundry under the back porch, discussions about fictions and playing scrabble. And maybe reading James Frey, that writer/liar/drunkard/embellisher/ maybe-just-mistaken guy with a brouhaha around him regarding truth in writing.

I hope you'll still be around to talk about it after my power is restored. Because I think it's an interesting topic, much more so than discussing The Help again. and again. (Why are the promos yellow and purple like the awful book cover? "Mix and Match" theory does not begin to explain this for me. I liked the book, but hotdamn. That ever-present yellow is for kitchens and Italy and things the sun kisses. )


message 209: by Diane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Having grown up in the South during this era and having had a maid, I could relate to the emotional nuances of this book. I was a child when we had a maid, so I didn't understand why she had to sit in the backseat when we drove her home, why she couldn't sit with us to eat lunch, etc. On one hand, she was a beloved member of MY extended family. On the other hand, she was treated like a second class citizen. The book brought back so many memories of that era in history. So much of the groundbreaking civil rights issues were on the fringes of my life as I was a child when these giant strides of achievement were taking place. What I saw were the day to day details of "the Help" and what they went through. Also, the book was very on point with our "southern" ways of being polite to your face because that is how we were raised, while shredding you to pieces behind your back. The way Hilly bullied all her debutantes to close ranks against poor Celia was and is so very typical of Southern culture. I guess I enjoyed it because I understood the nuances and shades of sarcasm that the author portrayed. If you aren't from the south, I can't imagine that you would have truly understood the book. You may have enjoyed it, but I don't think you could have grasped what it was like during those tumultuous years. In my opinion, and from having been here during that time, I think the author did an excellent job. The dialect was right on...and trust me...when white people mimic black people and when black people mimic white people that we all grew up with....we get the dialect correct! Just like when a northerner mimics a southern accent, or when a southerner mimics a northern accent, it is the same. When you work with and are around people, of course you pick up on their dialect and mannerisms so when you are imitating them, you use their dialect.

Even though most people will see this book as fluff, those of us who lived through that period of time, recognize the more complexities of the characters and the plot of the book. Sorry you didn't get it.


message 210: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 26, 2011 08:27AM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Diane - as you can see you've made the 224th comment on this thread, and I think this is actually the first time I've had a problem with something someone has said. I would encourage you to read these two articles:

http://newamericamedia.org/2011/08/th...

http://newamericamedia.org/2011/08/as...

I kind of feel like you are arguing that the black women in the book do resonate - because they resonate as a white stereotype of black women (I feel like this because of your use of the word "mimic," but you might just be using that to mean "copy," not "copy in an exaggerated, mocking way," which is the way I feel the eye-dialect is in the book). I think that's true, and the entire problem with the book. I am not from the South, that's true, but it's starting to seem to me like that makes me more qualified to say that the black characters do not resonate as humans. The number of white women I've heard say the book is totally accurate of the South, and the number of black women I've heard say it is not, is really troubling to me. I agree that the interaction of the white women seemed pretty accurate, but the thoughts and interactions of the black women did not seem accurate to me, and I think this book is about the black women. If it is not about them, that is its own problem.

Again, I am not arguing that she did the dialect badly. I am saying that she did it racistly because she did not use eye-dialect for the white characters.

Jen - GAH! I hope you are okay! Don't be scared! What would Buffy do? and things like that.

I agree. It is interesting to think about the line between truth and lies in fiction. I know I have told some of the other ladies about this, but did I tell you about that time, when I worked at Barnes & Noble, when these kids were walking by the info desk and one said, "Wait, I always forget with "fiction" and "non-fiction" - which one is truth and which one is lies?" And another kid said, "Fiction is lies and non-fiction is truth." And the first kid got all exasperated and said, "Why don't they just call it truth and lies?!" It's funny cause it's true.

But, really, both of them are about getting likely humans, more, I think. Or, if you are getting unlikely humans, letting us know the systems you're using to make that happen.


message 211: by Jessica (last edited Aug 26, 2011 08:29AM) (new)

Jessica Jen wrote: "...Right now I'm worrying instead about those comments from Elizabeth and you- the comments about how fiction a fiction can be, or is, or should be. How a story can feel false even if it's true or rings true even if false. And I'll be worrying about this and thinking on it after my lights go out and don't come back on for a good while. So that will be my Amish weekend- hanging out laundry under the back porch, discussions about fictions and playing scrabble. And maybe reading James Frey, that writer/liar/drunkard/embellisher/ maybe-just-mistaken guy with a brouhaha around him regarding truth in writing.

I hope you'll still be around to talk about it after my power is restored. Because I think it's an interesting topic, much more so than discussing The Help again. and again. "


I agree w/ Jen. I can't talk about 'The Help'--I haven't read it and won't be--but I did very enjoy 'Memoirs of a Geisha' (I listened to it on tape years ago), and as a writer of fiction myself, I do think this topic calls for further exploring/discussion--


message 212: by Sketchbook (new)

Sketchbook Stop reading "best-sellers." It's an easy fix.


message 213: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Sketchbook wrote: "Stop reading "best-sellers." It's an easy fix."

Yeah, but the Glass Castle is like the best book ever, so that doesn't always work as a rule.


message 214: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 26, 2011 12:16PM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Jessica wrote: "I did very enjoy 'Memoirs of a Geisha' (I listened to it on tape years ago), and as a writer of fiction myself, I do think this topic calls for further exploring/discussion--"

Yeah, I loved a lot of it, but it all fell apart at the end to me. Didn't she have some kind of Inspector Gadget plan for making a dude jealous in the end? I forget exactly how it went.

It seems to me like a lot of what rings true in fiction is based in personal taste and experience. The woman who lent me the Help is a woman I love love love, and who I have tons of respect for, but she has pretty different life experiences and worldview than me. Which I also love about her. But, I think the Help was about the maids, to me, not only because of the title, but also because I just identify with that character more - I have helped raise other people's kids and cleaned other people's houses. My friend, on the other hand, is wealthier and has her own house and kids, and it makes sense to me that she would more quickly see the white women as the center of this story.

Anyway, I'm pretty sensitive about men writing women's voices and women writing men's voices, and across races and whatnot. I think it takes a pretty thoughtful, compassionate writer to get that even close to right. Do you have thoughts about it, Jessica?


message 215: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow haha, yes. That was part of my point. I think just to say it's inaccurate, though, is kind of misleading because I think her facts are correct. I do think she probably did research and got the dates right. I just don't think that black people spend all their time thinking about white people, and I don't think maids and nannies spend all their time thinking about their bosses. I don't really think that's the kind of thing you ca fix by better research, though.


message 216: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Exactly. And why would you want to be? Your subjective perspective is great enough that it seems excessive to reach into someone else's.


message 217: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Ugh. I glanced at it. Is that one of the ones I skimmed from the Apples collection? She can be so unpleasant. But her good ones are so good!

That is a really weird article. I think it assumes a lot of things.


message 218: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 26, 2011 05:26PM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Hmmm. I feel conflicted about that because I really felt, when I read the collected stories, that they were pervasively, extremely racist, especially at the point she wrote that story. I'll have to look into it more.


message 219: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow I feel like the comparison to Welty makes sense in that they both treat black actors as satellites to white actors. I think Welty gets some slack because she is a relic. Welty writes much more blatantly racist references and descriptions, though, and I'm not sure whether I think that's good or bad. Race tension is at least more obvious in some of her stories, but from the brief googling I've done, people make the same criticisms of Welty as I'm making of Stockett - that race is central to her stories, but she doesn't sympathetically acknowledge the black point of view. I am even skeptical about the way she acknowledges it where she writes from a black point of view. Even the "Where is the voice coming from?" story is something I have a problem with. I just think it's weird to write a story from the point of view of an assassin just after a hugely political killing. I mean, if someone published a story from the point of view of Osama Bin Ladin just after 9/11, that would have been really offensive, right?

I guess I have a problem with Welty, even though I completely love a few of the stories. This is an interesting article that comes out sympathetically to Welty, but also acknowledges her critics: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/college_...


message 220: by Diane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane My apologies. When I wrote my comment, I was websurfing to see who played the characters in the movie. I didn't realize there were so many comments, as my web browser only brought up your initial comment. Also, it is really pointless to discuss a book with someone who has not finished it. It isn't fair to you or to me, as my comments will not be fully understood by you until you read the book. As to the articles you referred me to...Of course, you realize that the first article refers to the movie. I think the movie was good, but like most movies based on books, it was not as good as the book and left a lot out and it changed some things. The second article...well...the book is after all based on fiction. We never get to read or hear all about what the maids have written about their white employers, just snippets of information, so of course it doesn't portray the full range of what black women went through during those times. Even in the book, one of the maids states that they do not go home and think about their white employers all weekend long. Of course, IF you would have completed the book, you would have gotten that point. To me the book gave a snapshot in time of our southern culture; how women were expected to get married right out of high school or college, start families etc. instead of pursuing careers. A lot of the mores of the time were things that my generation helped change. The character of Skeeter was very brave to attempt to bring to light the maid's stories. She put not only their lives at risk, but her own as well. While a lot of the book may seem "stereotypical" it was the way it was here during that period of time. Perhaps the author could have done a better job of fleshing out the maids' stories, but was the book really about the maids' stories or the fact that the maids united to do the unthinkable during a time in history where they could have been killed for doing so? Oh wait....you didn't finish the book, right, soooooo....perhaps, I need to put my opinion of the book on a post where someone actually finished the book, lol! My friends and I laughed and cried through the whole book as we recognized so much of how WE grew up in this area reflected in the author's words. However, that being said, the book, after all is FICTION based loosely on fact. I guess, if you didn't grow up with signs that said "colored" over water fountains, hooded Ku Klux Klansmen handing out literature at red lights, debutantes who looked down their snobby noses at anyone, blacks or whites, who didn't measure up to their ideals of what was "proper", then you grew up in a different time in history or a different region of the United States. Some of our great Mississippi authors that you referenced wrote about the times they grew up in. It's not that they were racist, necessarily, it was the WAY it was during their lifetime. If you don't understand that era, then you will have a hard time comprehending the full depth of their writing. You may enjoy their works, but you may not truly grip the full meaning of their words. For example, A friend of mine who grew up in Jackson now lives in Wisconsin. When her son had to read Huckleberry Finn in school, she had to explain a lot of it to him along with the dialect that it was written in. He was totally unfamiliar with the dialect and had a heck of a time comprehending it. Being from the south, she could relate because of her experiences here. The same with this book. Of course, you have to read it first in order to have a true insight or an informed opinion of the characters, lol! Once again, my apologies for posting on your comment. I put my opinion in the wrong place.


message 221: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Thank you for apologizing. I do find your comments very disrespectful, and I think it is probably a good idea for you to find a different review to comment on if you are looking for someone who finished or wants to finish the book.


message 222: by Diane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane You are so very welcome. I am sorry you find my comments disrespectful as they were not meant to be. I was just stating MY opinion of a book that I actually read all the way through. Maybe you will change your mind and read the book so you can see what all the hoopla is about. Once again, you are so very welcome for my apology, and I did not mean to be disrespectful. My comments were meant to give you an insight to Southern culture and perhaps an alternate viewpoint. I am sorry my comments offended you. I thought this was a discussion board where different viewpoints were embraced. By the way, I thought that your reply to my post was very condescending, especially since you never actually READ the book, lol, but once again, I do apologize for upsetting you.


message 223: by Kelly (last edited Aug 27, 2011 06:30AM) (new)

Kelly Diane, you appear to have two objections to Meredith's review. The first one is the complaint that she has not finished the book. You have stated this objection many times. I counted about five mentions of it in comment #239, and a further two in message #241. The impression I have gotten from this repeated attack is that Meredith is not entitled to any opinion whatsoever on this book because she did not finish it. Please do correct me if that's not your opinion.

Further, you find that your experience of this book is the only one that is valid in this conversation because you grew up in the era and location that this book took place. Therefore, you have unquestionable expertise and know everything about this topic, and can with authority dictate what is "realistic" and what is not. Because you (and your friends) identified with this book's particular interpretation of a period and the way the author depicted it, no other interpretations of this book are possible. Therefore, even if Meredith had finished the book and stated the above opinion, her ideas would have been invalid anyway. As you state several times, anyone who did not grow up in the South cannot possibly hope to properly understand the situation. Again, please let me know if I am wrong here.

Therefore, you are absolutely certain that if Meredith had finished the book, she necessarily would have thought exactly like you. Because, due to the two objections stated above, there is no other possible interpretation of the book.

For your first objection- I have never understood this objection that you have to read all of something to understand its point, or its tone. In fact, usually people make their major points and their style clear right up front. Writers, academics, politicians, are all taught to grab the reader and make a strong statement that expresses their strongest abilities/point/style right away. How likely is it that something that you don't like in most of a book is going to radically change in the rest of it? Are you arguing that Meredith's problem with the dialect would have changed at the end because the author did something differently in any way? Or just that the emotional heft of the book would have overcome her objection to the way it was depicted? As far as her actual, specific objection to the book goes, you've really not given her much more than that she should "trust you" that the dialect is correct.

Secondly, your argument that personal experience is the only really valid way to understand this story does not really seem to hold water. So, academics who study this era but did not live in it do not have perhaps a more objective perspective? Their hours in the archives meticulously examining a variety of documents would have no value? A smart, analytical person like Meredith who does not have an emotional attachment to the situation might not have something to add to the conversation that is helpful or different? An "alternate viewpoint", as you put it? I find it interesting that you are upset with Meredith because you "thought that this was a discussion board where different viewpoints were embraced," because in practice this seems to mean that you are allowed to object to what Meredith says, but if she tries to then debate your objections, that means that "different viewpoints are not embraced."

You might be interested to read a book written by Paul Cohen back in the 1990s called History in Three Keys. It deals with the Boxer Rebellion in China, and sets out three different ways that history is understood, lived and used. "History as experience," (your argument) is only one of the ways to see history, and not always the most accurate picture of what actually went on in a particular era. In fact, the personal accounts of those who lived through a particular event are shown to be most valuable for showing how something may have felt, but not necessarily how something actually was all of the time- factual research often proves those accounts incorrect in terms of what actually happened. I thought you might be interested in seeing how the three different ways of looking at a particular event he brings to bear wildly change the meaning and the picture of what actually happened during that event. It seems applicable to this discussion. Your personal experience is interesting and illuminating and would definitely be valuable for the historical record, but personal experience is not the only method by which to interpret a work of literature, nor a particular era of history. There are other methodologies which others may use to form an opinion that are equally valid, if in a different way. They may highlight other things about a topic that cannot be gained from looking at something through just one person's perspective. Your experience is your truth, of course, and I completely understand that. But I don't think it is fair to say that you can shut down any objections to your opinion just because of that experience.

I'll pause for now in my response as this has gotten long, and I should in any case wait to see what my perception of your objections is correct before going any further.


message 224: by Kelly (new)

Kelly The book may be a fine one for giving a certain group of people an emotional connection with how it felt to a white girl growing up in this place at this time. It seems, from the success of the book and movie, that the author really got something right there. But that doesn't mean this is what it was actually like, for everyone, and lawsuit and other books and criticism of the book/film seem to suggest that it wasn't.

Thanks, Elizabeth. I definitely think that this point you make above is so important. If we all merely argue with what we personally feel we have experienced, and take that to be Holy Writ, we will not get anywhere. These debates where people are merely stating their opinion in the same room rather than actually affecting and being affected by what is being said are just such a waste of things that could be so helpful. We should all respect that others have different opinions from our own, however, I don't think that opinions get to stand unquestioned just because you were there. People see incorrect, incomplete, and inaccurate things all the time, or remember things in ways that change with passing years. You state it well- your particular part of the story is not the whole story.


message 225: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow This is such a good point! Thanks, girls! I love what you articulated about subjective perspective's importance and inaccuracy.


message 226: by Diane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane @Kelly,
Thank you for your perspective. I think you should reread my post. I stated that this was my OPINION of a book that I had read. I could identify with the book because of my experiences of growing up during that era as a child. I am sure that other people have other experiences. I'm betting that you and Meredith grew up in the 80's or 90's and have a different perspective of the whole era. Isn't America a wonderful place where we have the freedom to have different opinions. Wouldn't it be a boring place if we all thought alike?

I embrace different opinions and perspectives as I believe it helps one grow in depth and understanding. It is always interesting to see what other people's perspectives of a book are and what golden nuggets that they dig out of what was written that I may have missed or failed to look at in that perspective.

One thing is for sure, The Help obviously has touched a nerve with America or it wouldn't remain on the best seller's list and they wouldn't have turned it into a movie! Of course, just because a book is a best seller doesn't make it well written....just well read.


message 227: by Cory (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cory I'm surprised that "realism" is even an argument in this book's favor. This author did zero research. And if she did, I'm surprised.

Black women joking around on the back of a bus in Jackson, Mississippi during the civil rights movement? Are you shitting me?

Medgar Evers was shot. He was not bludgeoned.

I won't even get started on the portrayal of black men.

I didn't finish the book either and I have no intention of doing so unless I'm terribly bored. The script was enough.

So, like with The Aeneid, we're in 100% agreement.

This is entertaining, but that's about it.

My relatives lived in Alabama and Mississippi during the 60's. They weren't exactly smiling and taking care of white babies while they ignored their own at home.

BTW, have you seen this website: http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordp...

It's an excellent rebuttal to anything anyone has to say about this book being good.


message 228: by Kelly (last edited Aug 27, 2011 08:15AM) (new)

Kelly Diane, thank you for responding.

I think you should reread my post. I stated that this was my OPINION of a book that I had read. I could identify with the book because of my experiences of growing up during that era as a child.

Yes, I understood this. You were more than clear about it. My objection was that you appeared to believe that your particular opinion was the only valid one due to your experiences of growing up during that era. It seems to me that you completely disrespected any other method of arriving an opinion about the book, and had no interest in learning from any alternate perspective that Meredith might have because she couldn't know what you knew. And what you knew was better than what she knew.

As now seem to be telling me that I was mistaken about that, that is good to know.

The Help does seem to have "touched a nerve", in both positive and negative ways. I agree with that much at least. It is good we are having a national conversation about this.


message 229: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 27, 2011 08:27AM) (new) - added it

Sparrow YES!! Thank you, Cory!! I was looking for that website a while ago! Whew. It's pretty hilarious. In a, like, it-is-SO-unfortunate-that-this-has-to-be-stated-at-ALL way.

SHE SAYS EVERS WAS BLUDGEONED?!!!!

Do you know that Elizabeth's dad was there when he was shot? Her V for Vendetta review talks about it. So amazing. Oh, oops. James Meredith. Which, I guess I should remember, right? because we have the same name.

My relatives lived in Alabama and Mississippi during the 60's. They weren't exactly smiling and taking care of white babies while they ignored their own at home.

This really bothered me about the book. I said it before, but as someone who has basically been a nanny to peers' babies while they go to parties that I can't go to because I am unmarried, the way the maids thought under those circumstances in the book was not even in the same universe as what I think is normal human emotion. And my experience is so incredibly miniscule compared to what was going on in the South at the time, or even what was going on in the book. I could see being pretty pissed. Like, PRETTY PISSED. Not, like, "them silly white wimins and they's bad cookin'! Golly gee!" brrrrr.


message 230: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I don't think that opinions get to stand unquestioned just because you were there. People see incorrect, incomplete, and inaccurate things all the time, or remember things in ways that change with passing years.

That's pretty much the opinion of professional historians as well. Even if a person doesn't have an ax to grind and misrepresent things on purpose (and this happens all the time) here's no way to be objective about things that you're living through and being personally affected by.


message 231: by Kelly (new)

Kelly That's pretty much the opinion of professional historians as well.

Yeah. I'm in a history grad program. I learned that from them, and from my own adventures in research over the past year. It's been fascinating to see how historians use the personal viewpoint stuff, and how they pull it apart. It's always useful, but just maybe not for what it initially seems useful for.


message 232: by Cory (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cory She does. It's like a quick google search could've solved all of her problems.

Apparently, she did have a black maid. And she interviewed another black maid (and did Memoirs of a Geisha on her).

Celia, white trash girl, annoyed me the most. I liked her, but if she was from Memphis, wouldn't she have had an accent too? She spoke perfect English, like she'd been to college, and the maids don't, but they spend the entire day with "educated" white women? I'll give Stockett this: she must be laughing her way to the bank.


message 233: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara @ Diane,
Shhhhhhh.


message 234: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I haven't read all six pages of comments yet (yikes! a lot of comments) but I wanted to let you know that I, too, thought it was an excellent review.
For the thoroughly bashed topic of dialect: I am a white woman from the south. When I am with my extended family (parents, siblings, cousins, etc) or am really tired, my accent is pretty thick. It is mostly neutral when I am with my immediate family (husband and kids) or in any sort of academic or professional setting. I found it to be just as odd that the white women's accents are never shown. I don't think it means that you missed something by not being a southerner.
For the book as a whole, I agree with you again. I found it condescending. It felt like it was one more book to make white people feel better about something they don't really know about. I have friends and family who are black, but race relations in the south are HARD for me. They are still HARD, and I don't think I am alone in thinking that. There are still a lot of issues of unacknowledged privilege and unintentional racism. The Help made it out like everything is a-okay because some people who were black and white loved each other, but that just isn't the case. I get so tired of people pulling out the author's connection with her black maid as if it is some sort of get-out-of-racism-free card. You can still be hurtful and racist to people you love.


message 235: by Sparrow (last edited Aug 27, 2011 10:59AM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Sara wrote: "@ Diane,
Shhhhhhh."


hahahahaha!

Cory wrote: "Celia, white trash girl, annoyed me the most. I liked her, but if she was from Memphis, wouldn't she have had an accent too? She spoke perfect English, like she'd been to college, and the maids don't, but they spend the entire day with "educated" white women? I'll give Stockett this: she must be laughing her way to the bank."

That was the girl I had the biggest problem with. At one point she actually writes that Celia has an almost incomprehensible accent, but the writing is not in eye-dialect for her. Bad form.

Did you watch that interview that Sara linked? Stockett talks about how sweet it was that her family had one live-in maid for generations. Ummm, sweet for you, maybe. I wouldn't be so quick to say that for the maid.

But, yeah, hopefully she's getting a kick out of the whole business.

Michelle wrote: "I haven't read all six pages of comments yet (yikes! a lot of comments) but I wanted to let you know that I, too, thought it was an excellent review.
For the thoroughly bashed topic of dialect: ..."


Thanks, Michelle! It's encouraging to hear that you agree about the accent issue. I've almost gone back to the book a couple of times to make sure I'm not crazy about it - people are so adamant that I'm wrong. Almost. But, no. Not worth it.

I have definitely gotten the sense, just from so many women not even picking up on that problem that race tensions are a lot bigger in America than I thought they were. I definitely agree that you can be hurtful to the people you love - maybe especially to those people because you feel like you have the free pass.


message 236: by Catie (new) - rated it 4 stars

Catie Hey Meredith, great review.

I don't have anything more to add about the issues that you've brought up here. I think that you have a lot of great points and I've watched this whole discussion with interest.

I do just want to add that, as a person who has only "read" this as an audiobook, the eye-dialect is not an issue there. The narrators ALL have very strong accents in the audio format. Interesting, as it seems that wasn't indicated in the text.


message 237: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow That is really interesting, Catie! It makes a lot of sense that they would correct that when they were hiring readers.


message 238: by Avery (new) - rated it 5 stars

Avery I hated your review, Meredith. Seems to me that you need to take a chill pill and get off your high horse while you are at it. Are you an african american woman? Were you raised by an african american woman in the middle of the civil rights movement? I have a feeling that the answers to both those questions are no. Oh..and while I'm at it.. I also have a strong inclination that you are not a bestselling author. Please correct me if I am wrong on any of these accounts. Just because you have read hundreds of books..I don't think your criticism is warranted. But yet..that's just my opinion. If I had to listen to you talk about this book even half as much as you have written about it...I would have walked away. I think.what you need is a stiff drink.


message 239: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara Well Meredith, Avery doesn't like you. Your life is now ruined.


message 240: by Sparrow (last edited Sep 01, 2011 02:17PM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Sara wrote: "Well Meredith, Avery doesn't like you. Your life is now ruined."

At least she took the time to tell me about it. I mean, think about all of those people who hate my reviews, who don't even stop to tell me that I haven't written a book of my own or lived the lives of the characters in the book. Lazy. I'm liable to start thinking I have a right to my opinion without having written my own book, or something.


message 241: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Thomas wrote: "only bestselling authors are allowed opinions now? pssh."

Come now, that's troll 101. You know none of us are eligible for opinions.


message 242: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow I think there's an exception in the fine print for if you agree with the troll, though.


message 243: by Sara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sara Ha ha ha Meredith, I loved this book and you're still slowly becoming my bestest friend.


message 244: by Sparrow (last edited Sep 01, 2011 02:39PM) (new) - added it

Sparrow Sara wrote: "Ha ha ha Meredith, I loved this book and you're still slowly becoming my bestest friend."

Awwww. See? There are so many good people who totally disagree with me! I'm not being sarcastic or anything there. I totally love honest, respectful, smart disagreement.


message 245: by Joel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joel i kind of disagree with you (in that i enjoyed the book in some ways), but i don't have any smart disagreement to offer because i don't think the book stands up to a lot of critique. so i will just dumbly half-disagree with you.


message 246: by Cory (last edited Sep 01, 2011 03:08PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cory Meredith, this is a lovely troll.

Avery wrote: I hated your review, Meredith. Seems to me that you need to take a chill pill and get off your high horse while you are at it.

That's cute.

Are you an african american woman?

She isn't. I am. I hate this book. So, according to you, you need to be black to get the book, right? The author is white. Very, very white. Look up Kathryn Stockett. Her skin is almost translucent.

Were you raised by an african american woman in the middle of the civil rights movement?

My grandmother was. However, Stockett was born in 1969. And she wasn't raised by a black woman. She had a black maid. She never saw the civil rights movement nor did she research it thoroughly.

I have a feeling that the answers to both those questions are no.

I have the feeling that you're full of shit, but disregarding that, it seems like you made a troll account because you were butthurt over one your favorite books getting a negative review. Boo hoo. I'm playing the world's smallest violin.

Oh..and while I'm at it.. I also have a strong inclination that you are not a bestselling author.

Are you? Just curious. Stockett wasn't a best selling author when she wrote the book. But any idiot should know that New York Times Best Selling List /=/ Quality Writing. But wait, you're not just any idiot. You're a special idiot.

Please correct me if I am wrong on any of these accounts. Just because you have read hundreds of books..I don't think your criticism is warranted.

So, what is your point? Why is your criticism warranted? According to you, no criticism is ever warranted on this book unless you're a)black, b) grew up during the 60's in America, c) were raised by a black woman, and d) a best selling author. So, that only leaves two women who fit the bill. Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.

But yet..that's just my opinion.

Your opinion is irrelevant.

If I had to listen to you talk about this book even half as much as you have written about it...I would have walked away. I think.what you need is a stiff drink.

I think what you need is a dose of reality. No one made you read the review or the comments. Or, did they? Is Meredith standing over your shoulder, forcing your eyes open so that you read her review? I doubt it. I think you're another butthurt fanboy/fangirl who doesn't know shit about civil rights or the author.


message 247: by John (new) - added it

John Egbert I hated your review, Meredith.

And I loved it. Your point?

Seems to me that you need to take a chill pill and get off your high horse while you are at it.

Seems to me you're the only one who's not chill. Also, it seems to me that you're the the only one who's on a high horse. You came here. That's right. You. Came. Here. To do what? Preach to Meredith about how she was wrong in some way for having an opinion on a book. So who's the one on the high horse?

Are you an african american woman? Were you raised by an african american woman in the middle of the civil rights movement?

Were you? Lemme answer that for you...fucking no. And if you say you are, I still won't believe you. No way you can have gone through all of that and be so fucking stupid.

I have a feeling that the answers to both those questions are no. Oh..and while I'm at it.. I also have a strong inclination that you are not a bestselling author.

Once again, are you? Lemme answer that for you again...fucking no. So shut up.

Please correct me if I am wrong on any of these accounts. Just because you have read hundreds of books..I don't think your criticism is warranted.

So...because Meredith hasn't sold millions of copies of a crappy, poorly researched and written book she can't have an opinion on them? You have a funny way of looking at things, Troll.

But yet..that's just my opinion. If I had to listen to you talk about this book even half as much as you have written about it...I would have walked away.

Do you think Meredith would want an idiot like you anywhere near her? I know I wouldn't. I don't think you would have gotten a chance to walk away before she decided to spray your trolling ass with a nice pepper concentrate, and rightfully so.

I think.what you need is a stiff drink.

I think what you need is a good therapist.

Bottom line? You are no one to come and tell someone what they can or cannot have an opinion on. If you feel the need to belittle and mock someone for writing a negative review, then you should seriously take a moment to reconsider your life and it's obvious non-existent purpose. Get off the internet before you hurt yourself, bitch.


message 248: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow hahahaha! those are almost jinx posts!!

Joel wrote: "i kind of disagree with you (in that i enjoyed the book in some ways), but i don't have any smart disagreement to offer because i don't think the book stands up to a lot of critique. so i will just..."

Do you disagree, or did you just have a different reaction to the book?


message 249: by Cory (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cory Meredith wrote: "Do you disagree, or did you just have a different reaction to the book? "

That's a brilliant way to put it. I'd never thought about reaction vs agreement in terms of a review and book content.


message 250: by Sparrow (new) - added it

Sparrow Well, I think both are legit, but I think disagreement can make for some fun debates, whereas different reactions aren't really things you can fight about.


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