Monday, February 13, 2012

White People Telling Black Stories: Sue Monk Kidd and The Secret Life of Bees

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

I'm having great fun compiling this list  of White people who tell Black stories for Black History Month. And as I keep coming up with more and more candidates for my list, I wonder why nobody has done this before. I also wonder why White people have always felt Black History Month wasn't really "their" thing,  when clearly many White people feel Black people's stories are 'theirs' for the telling. Makes you go hmm...doesn't it? Makes you kind of wonder really, why we live such segregated lives if we are comfortable enough to creatively inhabit one another's world, yet can't manage to find a way to connect in real life.

So, today we are talking about Sue Monk Kidd, author of the 2002 novel, The Secret Life of Bees. I loved this book about a young White girl who flees life with her tyrannical father and ends up moving in with three Black, bee-keeping sisters who become surrogate mother figures and teach Lily how to love herself.

One might argue that since the main protagonist of the book is the young White girl, this book shouldn't make my list, but once again, I'd argue that the three Black sisters, the Black maid, and the Black 'love interest' for Lily qualify this title to be a "Black story." The story would have been over on page 10 if Lily's saviors had simply been three White sisters.

THE SUCCESS: The Secret Life of Bees was a New York Times bestseller for 2.5 years, sold more than six million copies, was published in 35 countries and was nominated for the Orange Prize in England.

TAKING IT BLACK: In 2008 the book was turned into a movie starring Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and Dakota Fanning. The movie was directed by Black movie director, Gina Prince-Blythewood and produced by the also Black, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.

How many people read this book? Did you enjoy it? Did it give you pause knowing a White woman wrote it? And considering the Blacklash against The Help, why did Sue Monk Kidd get away with her version of the helpless young White girl being 'saved' by the trio of strong Black females? Thoughts?

I'm totally listening.



Anonymous said...

Hi Lori,

I may be wrong about this, but what about the Wire, wasn't the head writer or creator white, yet it depicted black inner city life in Baltimore? Thanks for compiling this list I'm curious to see...hey are you considering offering a course on this? Best,
Msinfo247 @

LT said...

I think you may be right about the Wire. I'll look into it. Hmm, a course on this? What a good idea.