Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Help

PYZ, the writer of two interesting blogs, Zebra Shoes and Journey into Diversity, provided the initial impetus for the creation of Bookwagon. Here she reviews a book I received from my sister-in-law Annie for my birthday. She didn't put the book down (and I didn't see her face) for two days.  

The Help is a first novel for Kathryn Stockett, a writer who was born and raised in the South and who now lives with her husband and daughter in Atlanta. In this novel, inspired by her childhood memories of the family maid, Demetrie, Stockett explores life in the early 1960's in Mississippi from the viewpoints of several young white women and several black maids. Altogether their voices tell a rich and troubling story of privilege, discrimination, segregation, and rigid cultural norms. One white woman dares to challenge those norms and discovers the disparities between her life and those of her peers and the strength and power of the written word to reveal, acknowledge and share truths.

The story explores how people gain and control power using communication, emotional connection, and vantage point as tools. There is sadness in the pressure to conform in the the white women's experience; there is despair in the code of silence of the black women that driven by fear. There is hope in the many acts motivated by humanity.

The context of this story has changed, but the human condition has not. The story gives us a chance to consider the human condition one more time in the safety of the past.

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