Tag Archives: The Help

Problems with ‘The Help’


A quick note before we start. I write this from a position of relative privilege. I am a white, straight, cis-gendered, female, from a middle-class background. With this in mind I do not presume to think I understand what it is like to live as a person of BAME background. I do however know that as well as issues with policing and crime people of BAME backgrounds face inequalities in health, education, employment, housing, and poverty, and this is not even addressing more overtly racist experiences. I’m going to leave a link at the bottom of this post to a website which lists lots of ways that you can help with inequalities and the issues facing those from BAME backgrounds.

protesters holding signs

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com


In my previous post I noted that ‘The Help’ is currently one of amazon’s kindle deals, but that it’s problematic to read as a way to better understand black experiences. I wanted to expand on it a bit here.

First off ‘The Help’ is written by a white women, who herself had a black maid growing up. Whilst she does write from the perspective of a white woman (a journalist writing about black women) it does seem that there is a suggestion of real understanding, an understanding which nobody could fully get without the experiences surrounding it. There is also the way the white woman is contrasted with the overtly racist white women in the community. This has the effect of pointing fingers at them as the ‘bad’ people.

So is that wrong? It still points at the experiences of black maids, even if it is through someone else’s voice. Well, maybe. At the time the book is set it would have been much easier for a white journalist to publish than for a black journalist, so in that sense the story works.

The thing is though Kathryn Stockett is writing more recently. Having black voices speaking for themselves is more common, but through giving her white protagonist a role as ‘saviour’ she also gives that role to herself. The story now doesn’t have to be told like this, except as a way for a white person to explain why they are telling it, when a black author could do just as good (or probably even a better) job whilst being more authentic.

There are other issues too. Kathryn Stockett was sued with claims that she had stolen the story of a maid who had worked for her family. Whilst the claim was ultimately dismissed it was because it the statute of limitation, which means it could still be true. If indeed it is this maid’s story surely it is hers to tell?

When it comes to the film Viola Davis (who paid Aibileen) has said that she regrets doing the role because she didn’t feel it really showed the black voices. Whilst this doesn’t directly speak of the book, it could reflect a problem with the book too.

Then there’s that Stockett is making money from an issue which isn’t hers. Is it really right for her to make money from this? Or is it exploitative?

I’m not going to say don’t read the book. I won’t even say for sure that it has no value, because I am not in the position where I feel I know if it does have any truth for black maids, but part of the problem is that, is Stockett able to know how much, if any, of her writing reflects reality.

I’m also not going to recommend alternative books, because again I don’t have the experiences to know if they are actually helpful. Although I would say that books by BAME authors are more likely to have an authentic voice.

protesters holding signs

Photo by Shane Aldendorff on Pexels.com


If you want to help with the Black Lives Matter movement this website has a collection of places to donate, petitions, and resources. You can also look at the official website of Black Lives Matter.

You can also donate through watching youtube! Lots of pages have set up videos where they are donating ad revenues to various BAME charities and causes. You can leave them just running in the background, just make sure you don’t skip the ads! Here are just a few

 

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Deals of the Moment- June 2020


Every month amazon has a set of kindle monthly deals. Whenever there are deals of interest I post on here. Links are associate links but the money goes back into the blog.

So I’m going to briefly talk about the books I’ve read which are on offer, and those that I have bought myself. Why I liked them/bought them, and what they are about. End links are to the amazon page, any other links are to my reviews.

See all the books in the deals here

Please note prices are correct at time of publishing and may be subject to change.



The Help- Kathryn Stockett

Do you remember when this was super popular a few years ago? If you missed it then you can read it for cheap now. It’s taken from the view of black maids in white households (who are not nice). It is a good book, although maybe when you consider context a little problematic. So maybe not the best to read if you want to understand black history.

Buy it for just £0.99


Adults- Emma Jane Unsworth

I was surprised this is so cheap because it’s relatively new and not out in paperback yet. I read it a few months ago and suggested it for my bookgroup, but we decided not to read it at the time due to the price.

It’s the story of Jenny, who seems rather vapid and self-obsessed to start with, but once you get to know more of her story you realise what hides behind it, and that maybe her self-obsession isn’t quite that. A very good read but it takes some getting into.

You can buy it…here (only £0.99)


The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

I’m not the worlds biggest YA fan in general, but I enjoy a dystopian novel, and this is the start of a very good series.

‘The Hunger Games’ are ‘games’ set up by the elite as part of controlling the population. Each district has two young tributes every year, only one tribute will come out alive.

Buy here (only £2.49) 


How to be Famous- Caitlin Moran

I really enjoyed the first book in this series How to Build a Girl, as soon as I saw this was on offer I bought it. It continues the story of Johanna, young music journalist and her (mis)adventures in the Britpop scene.

You can buy it…here (only £0.99)


The Closed Circle- Jonathan Coe

Another one I bought immediately on seeing it. This is the follow-up to ‘The Rotter’s Club’. Set during the time of the ‘War on Terror’ it will be interesting to see the view of terrorism now vs. how it was during the time of the IRA (The Rotter’s Club is set around the Birmingham bombings)

Buy it…here (only £0.99)



Attachments- Rainbow Rowell

‘Attachments’ is the story of an IT tech who falls in love with a woman through reading her e-mails. I can’t remember much about it except that I enjoyed it and it was an easy read. 

Buy it…here (Only £0.99)


Seven Signs of Life- Aoife Abbey

A medical memoir focusing around an intensive care doctor. Also pretty glad this one is written by a woman, as they generally seem to be written by men.

Buy it...here (only £0.99)


The Lake House- Kate Morton

As usual for Kate Morton half historical novel half mystery. Lots of intrigue. This one focuses on the disappearance of a baby, and the secrets which surround it.

Buy it…here (only £0.99)


Also, quick mention Room is cheap again, this seems to happen every few months so I’m not bothering to go into a big song and dance, but you can get it for 99p if you want!

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Deals of the Moment- October 2017


Every month amazon has a set of kindle monthly deals. Whenever there are deals of interest I post on here. Links are associate links but money goes back into the blog.

So I’m going to briefly talk about the books I’ve read which are on offer, and those that I have bought myself. Why I liked them/bought them, and what they are about. End links are to the amazon page, any other links are to my reviews.

Please note prices are correct at time of publishing and may be subject to change.



The Elements of Eloquence and The Horologican- Mark Forsyth

I’m always one to champion Mark Forsyth’s books about language

‘The Elements of Eloquence’ is a bit different from ‘The Horologican’ or ‘The Etymologicon’ because it’s about using words rather than the meanings of words. It’s probably more

Buy ‘The Element’s of Eloquence’ for £3.49 

Buy ‘The Horologican’ for £3.09


Why Have Kids?- Jessica Valenti

I’m mainly interested in this one because Valenti was a major contributor of ‘Yes Means Yes‘, a book I think everyone should read.

This one isn’t feminist as such but about the challenges of being a parent, and the cultural expectations around it. It sounds like an interesting read, but if it was more expensive I probably wouldn’t go for it, as is, maybe it being 99p makes it worth a try.

You can buy it…here (only £0.99)


The Road- Cormac McCarthy

Well, it’s a classic isn’t it?

The story of a man and a boy traveling through ravaged America

You can buy it….here (only £1.19)


The Help- Kathryn Stockett

I really enjoyed this book about black people who work as ‘help’ for white families and their rights.

You can buy it…here (only £1.99)

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Film of the Book: The Help


This review contains (minor) spoilers for the film and book The Help

I read the book The Help at the beggining of this year after reading lots of very positive reviews and having it recommended to me by my sister. It was one of those books that was on my wishlist for a while before I actually read it and really wished I’d read it earlier. In short I loved it.

I really wanted to see the film but as I have a tendency to overjudge films based on books I loved I was a little anxious.

Oh but honestly I loved the film too. Maybe not as much as the book but it had pretty much everything I loved about the book. I especially loved Minny, just as I had when I read the book, although I do think she was a bit more one-dimensional than she had been in the book. The Leroy storyline was there but it was so cut down that it seemed almost pointless, more like it had been added to make her less of a comic character that to give her life outside that as a maid.

The main negative thing I can say about the film was that I found it was rather long and dragged a little in the middle. However I can forgive it as there is very little else I would have cut out. I may have cut Skeeter’s relationship with Stuart completely. Simply because it was already cut down so much that it had little of the significance which it had in the book. The only real purpose it served was to show the negative impact of the book on Skeeter, and that was shown in other ways too which frankly were stronger.

Still I recommend those who have read the book to go and watch the film too.

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Great Literary Women


I thought it would be good to make a post for International Woman’s Day (which, if it has managed to pass you by, is today) So I thought I would make a post about great women in literature. I would love to hear your own thoughts on this, who else would you include? Who wouldn’t you include?

In no particular order

1) Lyra Belacqua/Lyra Silvertongue (His Dark Materials- Phillip Pullman): Lyra’s quest in the first of the Northern Lights starts as a quest to save her friend, but as Lyra grows it becomes a fight for her beliefs and what is right.

2) Ana Fitzgerald (My Sister’s Keeper– Jodi Picoult): Ana is great because he stands up to her parents, a very difficult thing to do for a young girl, because she believes she is right. (Highlight for spoiler)Ultimately she does this not for selfish reasons but because her sister asked her to, which makes me respect her all the more

3) Ma (Room– Emma Donoghue): Ma is strong because she goes through so much but still manages to bring Jack up well despite being away from civilisation, and because she fights to get Jack out of Room

4) Thursday Next (The Thursday Next Series- Jasper Fforde): I find Thursday Next especially strong in Something Rotten, not only is she fighting the criminals, but she’s also fighting the establishment, the corporation, fighting to have her husband re-actualised and being a single parent!

5) Minny (The Help- Kathryn Stockett) Minny doesn’t take rubbish from anyone, even though she may be better off fearing. She holds together her family and is a great friend. When she is loyal she stays loyal but you certainly don’t want to get on the wrong side of her!

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Kathryn Stockett sued.


Family Maid Files Suit Against Author of ‘The Help’ – NYTimes.com.

This is a difficult one. I must admit that from reading it, and especially from reading the author’s note I got the impression that The Help is based quite a bit on Stockett’s life. As for the maid suing I’m not so sure I agree with her view point. I mean Aiblene is the most lovely character, and I am sure that Stockett identified more with Skeeter and maybe the children, I can only see it as a compliment that she would immortalise her family maid in this way. Having said that if she was going to base a character on a real person shouldn’t that person have a say?

Thanks to chrisbookarama for the link.

My review of The Help.

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The Help- Kathryn Stockett


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Enter a vanished and unjust world:  Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver… There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from College, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared. Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in a search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

Review

I first heard about The Help on Channel 4’s TV Book Club, I was intregued enough at the time to add it to my wishlist but it wasn’t until reading a number of positive reviews from other bloggers that I really wanted to read it. All the same it could still be just sitting on my wishlist if it wasn’t for the fact that my sister leant me a copy.

It’s been quite a long time since I last read a book that I wanted to read above other things that I wanted to do, but The Help was definitely one of these. I really did not want to put it down, but despite that it still took my a while to read.

At first I was unsure of Aibileen’s voice, it seemed like the way a white person would write a black person’s speech, and kind of fake. After a while it either toned down or I got enough into the story for it to cease to matter, I’m not entirely sure which it was.

I grew to love the characters. I think Aibileen was my favourite, she wanted to change things, but not so much for herself as for the people she loved. She did it in small ways, like her stories to Mae Mobley but I really respected her for it. I thought Minny was really strong. I respected her for not taking any rubbish, I found it difficult to understand why she stuck with her husband, but I guess there’s a realism there that love just isn’t that simple.

There’s obviously some autobiographical element at play. I could see bits of Stockett’s own maid (from her childhood, who she speaks about at the end) in Minny, Aibileen and Constantine. Does that make the book a ‘cheat’ as fiction? No I don’t think so, and a certain realism gives more strength to the topic. Skeeter is very undoubtedly based on Stockett herself, I mean even the names are similar! I’m interested to see if she comes outwith anything else as there was so little real fiction in The Help.

5/5

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