Friday, February 03, 2012

White People Black History: First Up Kathryn Stockett

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

As promised, for the month of February, in honor of Black History Month, The Meltingpot will be profiling White people who became famous or garnered some modicum of success by telling Black people's stories. To understand why I'm doing this, check out my last post. In the meantime, let's get to our first honoree, Ms. Kathryn Stockett.

With a degree in English and creative writing, almost a decade working in magazine publishing and marketing in New York City, and a childhood spent in the deep south, Stockett felt ready to write a novel about the complicated relationship between White southern women and their Black maids in 1960s Mississippi. The result was The Help, a book whose emotional core stems from the difficult lives of the Black protagonists in the story.

Stockett's Success: The Help has spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold over five million copies. The book was turned into a movie, grossed over $200 million at the box office and, as of this writing, has earned four Oscar nominations.

The Blacklash: Let's be clear, many Black people, myself included, enjoyed reading this book. Still, there was a significant number of Black people who found Stockett's usage of "Black vernacular" way off and insulting. They also felt her depiction of Black domestics to be simple and two dimensional. That could be because Stockett herself doesn't really have a deep connection with the Black community and admitted that she only interviewed one Black maid before writing the book. And then of course there was that law suit that was brought against the author by the maid who worked for Stockett's brother. The woman claimed Stockett 'stole' her life as the basis for one of the main characters in the book. If you read the woman's claims it does sound a bit fishy.

In conclusion, Kathryn Stockett wrote a wildly popular book about  a group of valiant Black American women who helped an unlucky White girl achieve her dreams of being a famous writer. Hmm....

Happy Friday.



Judaye said...

I only read the first chapter of the book and got bored. Usually, if the first chapter doesn't hold me, I move on.

Maybe the book was about black women helping a white girl because that is what Stockett could understand and imagine at the time she wrote The Help.

Many people liked the book and it sold well. I think it was okay for her to write The Help, but some people are upset because they think that readers believe that Stockett's fictional story is actual reality. Maybe some people do believe it. Maybe some of her story is true. I just think the controversy over the book was overblown and it "helped" The Help become more popular. Seriously, did the book actually change public consciousness about anything?

LT said...

Thanks for the post. I think you're absolutely right that all the 'controversy' only served to make the book more popular. C'est la vie.

Future Diplomat said...

I had a very large, multi-paragraph response to your post, but I'll leave it at this:

I was very angry with the novel, the author, the film, the controversy -- but in December, my granmother told us she'd worked as 'the help' in Eastern Ohio, and...I stopped being angry.

I'm 27 years old.

I've got more than enough time left in my life to ignore Stockett's lazy, silly trite and get to understanding my own Grandmother's story -- lest I find myself in 27 more years, typing furiously on the internet at the revival of yet another simple, "The Help-esque" narrative.

Micaella Lopez said...

To me, this book was not so much about civil rights as it was about sisterhood. Women from different races finding a bond that is stronger and more powerful then any of them have had before. It's about girls who watch each other's back's , worry about one another, and pray for each other. And that, reader, is a beautiful thing to behold.
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