Tuesday, August 9, 2011

This is why I worry about "The Help"

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town... Read more...

A lot of folks have been giving the whole idea of a book, written by a Southern white woman,  about black domestics in 1960s Mississippi, the side eye. I understand. When my book club decided to read Kathryn Stockett's The Help last year, I was ambivalent. The book was a popular best-seller with rave reviews. Yet, I have learned to brace myself against the biased and stereotypical way black women are rendered in media. I have become weary of Mammy-fied caricatures that bear little resemblance to the many Southern black women in my family. I am sick of narratives that read like a sort of pre-Civil Rights porn for people who get off on "the good ole days." And I have become tired of narratives where black folks are "saved" by the awesomeness of good white folks. So, yeah, I came to The Help begrudgingly. But I liked it.


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