Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Help: The Helpening

I actually had a moment earlier this week when I wondered what I should read next. Then I remembered that Alice at Reading Rambo has already told me what I'm reading next.

By way of kicking things off, she's posted some of her preconceptions about The Help and rather than increase her comment count I'm being a jerk being self-centered going to post a few of my thoughts over here. Because let's be honest I wasn't going to manage a second post this week otherwise (sigh).

I think the first time I consciously acknowledged the existence of The Help was when the random stranger I talked to in Waterstone's this spring asked if I knew whether it was any good. "Uh, it's popular, I think. It's about segregation?" -- that is about as much as I knew about it.

And since I am a huge snob that was all I needed to ignore it. It seemed like an Oprah book: madly popular among (I assumed) suburban housewives, and Serious because it was about something Sad. I imagined book clubs across the country swooning over it. "Oh my god, you guys! It was like, so sad back then! How could people be so mean?" Yes, I know, I'm a horrible, horrible person.

(But don't worry, because in this story I get my comeuppance.)

So there I was, being superior, and then the movie came out. The reviews I read (e.g.) seemed to confirm what I thought about the book: that it was a condescending, sentimental portrayal of inequality meant primarily to make the reader feel better about herself. But then something strange happened: people I knew went to see the movie. And they liked it. Including a usually rather critical grad school companion of mine, whose work centers on racism and discrimination. Maybe they were wrong. Or maybe there was something to this whole The Help thing that I wasn't getting.

So I am duly chastened for my assumptions and prejudices and I haven't even read the book yet. Well done Stockett!

Anyhow, I am reading away and we'll see how it goes.


  1. I was JUST going to yell at you for not updating enough, so this is excellent.


    Only maybe not, because my friend Katie was all "This is about a white lady who swoops in and saves the black people," so now I cast a suspicious eye upon the book. We shall see.

    Have you started it?

  2. Makes me wish I haven't already read The Help so I could participate in this wondrous challenge. I grew up in Jackson, MS, albeit a different era from the one in the book. I think the story is a pretty good novel--it's not exactly like it's hard-hitting journalism.

    But the audio. Ahh, the audio. The audio transcends the story and is just marvelous.