Wednesday marks the release date of the latest book to film, The Help. I was made aware of this book when the Lil Sis, whose favorite hobby isn’t reading, made mention that she was reading it. I couldn’t figure out how this had happened, that she’d been in a bookstore & purchased a book. Don’t get me wrong, she can read, it just ain’t her favorite thing to do. Me, Da Mudda, & even Big Sis can lounge around the house for an entire day or weekend doing nothing but reading, but it’s never been Lil Sis’s twist. Again, her making the trek to the bookstore was monumental; an event worthy of family phone calls & such. In my mind, sitting on the arm of her sofa, I needed to know what this book was about if she was bothering to read it. I read the back of the book, cracked the back flap & saw a white woman & walked away.
If you’re unfamiliar, now’s the time for me to tell you about the book. As per the author, Kathryn Stockett’s website, here’s the synopsis:
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
Now, fast-forward some months & I get a message from Lil Sis asking me to give a friend of mine the book when she drops by. My friend is actually the older sis of a friend of Lil Sis from back in the day but we were good & grown before we made the connection. Somehow through the power of Twitter, my sis & my friend have connected & are trading books. Now, this friend is the best at finding racist plots. For instance: whack gear is racist; weather busting up good plans/parties is racist. Not your standard racist plots but being the uppity & persnickety coloreds that we are, they make for good laughs. So, said friend wasn’t gon’ spend no dough reading such a book for her book club & the library was fresh out so she went to her Twits-end to see who could hook her up. Irony=Lil Sis.
This all took place when we were still rockin’ coats so it was Fall or Winter. A short minute ago is the point. So, I hear of this book, written by a white woman about a white woman who writes about 3 black women. In Black
If you were to scan my personal library you would pick up on various themes. I won’t break them down for you, but trust that you would. All the books I own have not made it onto my shelves because I don’t have enough shelves or space to house shelves…& I’ve misplaced a couple boxes of books. I have & have read a wealth of books around The Black Experience before [what y’all refer to as] slavery, during it, & post. I’ve LOVED the pace & language, the languid (loogidup!) approach to storytelling. Hirsute (loogidup!) stories of trials I can’t imagine with the simplest & sweetest overtones of smiling through & making it. Folks lived through overt & covert humiliations that many of us aren’t smart enough to survive today. Washer-woman? I have the luxury of saying I don’t have to put my dignity on the
Anyone who’s read any of those kinds of stories or even just talked to a black person who tells stories at all, you know the voice is nonpareil (school’s almost in…sue me). It’s sing songy, rhythmic, full of dips & sways. Those of us who live it can’t always capture it in text. For those of us who have, our (& not necessarily including myself here) work has been around for eons &…no movies have been made. Why, because the industry doesn’t truly care about our stories. This is not knocking Kathryn Stockett at all. The book, from what I hear, is very well written. Brava, authoress, brava!! As I refuse to read the book OR see the movie, it’s a protest of the industry’s double standard. It’s as though the powers that be or the purse-string pullers find it romantic to share a story of black women through the doe-eyed white ‘oman’s scope, who’s worried about her maid. Maid. One more time. Maid. The Secret Life of Bees comes to mind right now. Oh how the Coloreds rise to the occasion to raise all of gawds chilluns as their own parents just focus on being…white…I guess. Friendship through oppression. It’s how we all love it, right? These movies give the dangerous impression that these relationships are wholesome, right even. At no point is there ever any real discussion or light shone or which evil garden these relationships sprung forth from. Dare I mention the S-word again. Guess not. After all, we still treat it like Voldemort of the Harry Potter series & call it something like The Shame That Shall Not Be Named. Can Prince make us a symbol? #imjessayin
I did consider going to see the movie, despite refusing to read the book. Part of me feels like I want to support the actresses that are in it. Another part of me felt like if I’m going to write about it, I must see it, right? Nah, Son. Spin. & here we are. I’ve vowed, despite being dragged to the theater for 1
Seriously…I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Watch me move.