Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Browsing Area Book of the Week, February 25, 2013.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  Library Call Number: PS3619.T636.H45 2009.                                 
Excerpted from Kirkus Reviews:      The relationships between white middle-class women and their black maids in Jackson, Mississippi, circa 1962, reflect larger issues of racial upheaval in…Stockett's ambitious first novel.  …recent Ole Miss graduate Skeeter [Phelan] returns to Jackson longing to be a serious writer. While playing bridge with…friends Hilly and Elizabeth, she asks Elizabeth's seemingly docile maid Aibileen for housekeeping advice to fill the column she's been hired to pen for a local paper. The two women begin what Skeeter considers a semi-friendship, but Aibileen…is careful what she shares…Encouraged by a New York editor, [Skeeter] decides to write a book about the experience of black maids and enlists Aibileen's help. For Skeeter the book is primarily a chance to prove herself as a writer. The stakes are much higher for the black women who put their lives on the line by telling their true stories. Although the exposé is published anonymously, the town's social fabric is permanently torn. Stockett uses telling details to capture the era and does not shy from showing Skeeter's dangerous naiveté. Skeeter's narration is alive with complexity—her loyalty to her traditional Southern mother remains even after she learns why the beloved black maid who raised her has disappeared. In contrast, Stockett never truly gets inside Aibileen and Minnie's heads (a risk the author acknowledges in her postscript). The scenes written in their voices verge on patronizing.”

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