My favorite book of later, which is now a movie to be released in August, is The Help, by Kathryn Stickett. It will probably mean much more to people of a certain age in the States, but it is a fairly accurate portrayal of the life of African-American maids in Jackson Mississippi during the heights of the civl rights movement during the 1960s.
The premise is that a reach graduate of Ole’Miss, Skeeter, is a budding author and a socialite in Jackson. She wants to find out what happened to the family’s life-long maid who disappeared from the home while Skeeter was at university and no one will tell her. She secures a low-paying job writing a household help column with the local paper, but wants more. She deicides that she wants to write a book about the homes of the Jackson from the point of view of the maids employed in these homes. It is a highly risky endeavor, but Skeeter persuades one maid, Abileen, to help her tell Abileen’s story. After a series of events that begin to distant Skeeter from her socialite friends, Abileen is fianlly able to convince more maids to contribute to the book. The book is the stories of the maids as they tell them to Skeeter, set in the happenings of Jackson, Misssissippi.
I particularly enjoyed this book because I remember how the segregated South used to be. My mother was from Virginia and we traveled there yearly. I have seen for myself the signs “For Coloreds Only” on bathrooms and drinking fountains. My mother’s family didn’t have maids, but the woman we always stopped to see who ran the boarding house where my mother lived before marrying my father had “help.” I could remember the events portrayed in the book. I remember them well. Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed this book so much.
The book is a work of fiction, but could certainly have been based on real life events. Ms. Stockett certainly knows that time in history. Americans especially will enjoy this book. It’s like “Driving Miss Daisy” but more earthy.