The Help is a tour de force of laughter, history, humility, but most of all, strength. After more than 60 rejections, Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel was finally published in 2009 by Penguin Books. It was an instant sensation, spread not only by dazzling reviews from the New York Times and USA Today, but also like wildfire by word of mouth.
Set in the 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi, the book aims to portray
the social and political turmoil through the eyes of African American
maids, and the prominent white families that they work for. The Help
is told through the narratives of Aibileen and Minny, maids who care
for the children of white families, and Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a
young woman who returns from college to find that her own beloved maid
has left the family after decades. Ashamed at the way the prestigious
white families treat their endearing maids after years of service,
Skeeter, an aspiring writer, begins the process of bringing these
injustices to light – through a book.
Any attempts to stand up to the unrest were illegal, forcing Skeeter
to secretly meet with the maids and transfer their stories into an
anonymous tell-all book. Affectionately called, The Help, the
book becomes a Mississippi sensation, and is viewed as a spark that
ignites social change for Jackson at the heart of the Civil Rights
movement. Along the way, Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny find friendship
and learn that it takes courage to stand up for what you believe, but in
the end it’s worth it.
By Lindsey Levinsohn is a collection development specialist for OverDrive.