Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
c2009 Fiction; Grades 9+; 451 p. 2010 Indies Choice Book of the YearBooklist: Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s is a city of tradition. Silver is used at bridge-club luncheons, pieces polished to perfection by black maids who yes, ma'am, and no, ma'am, to the young white ladies who order the days. This is the world Eugenia Skeeter Phelan enters when she graduates from Ole Miss and returns to the family plantation, but it is a world that, to her, seems ripe for change. As she observes her friend Elizabeth rudely interact with Aibileen, the gentle black woman who is practically raising Elizabeth's two-year-old daughter, Mae Mobley, Skeeter latches ontothe idea of writing the story of such fraught domestic relations from the help's point of view. With the reluctant assistance of Aibileen's feisty friend, Minny, Skeeter manages to interview a dozen of the city's maids, and the book, when it is finally published, rocks Jackson's world in unimaginable ways. With pitch-perfect tone and an unerring facility for character and setting, Stockett's richly accomplished debut novel inventively explores the unspoken ways in which the nascent civil rights and feminist movements threatened the southern status quo. Look for the forthcoming movie to generate keen interest in Stockett's luminous portrait of friendship, loyalty, courage, and redemption.