Sunday, December 13, 2009


I read a lot. Probably more than I should, but I can't honestly think of a better pastime.

When I was a kid, my mother would always ask me, "Who are you this week?" It seems I took on the mannerisms of the heroine in the story and put those newfound traits into practice. Not an easy thing to do when you are one of seven children and being raised in a family of modest means. Imagine when I read a Regency and thought I was deserving of a lady's maid, and a hero both wealthy and handsome, and was told it was my turn to feed the chickens. There was, I'm sure, a lot of deep sighing going on, although I seriously cannot remember as I prefer to think of myself as a pretty darn good kid. : 0

It takes a very special book to sweep me away, and many written for today's market leave me wanting. I find little that strikes me as new or different. I don't particularly enjoy science fiction or fantasy, definitely not erotica, find most romances are repetitious. I prefer to read about people I would like to know, or whom I can relate to, and love to watch their lives unfold. Recently I read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Now, I did not grow up in the American South, not even in the USA. I grew up in Australia and knew little about the race problems in America, other than what we learned in school, until I moved here in the seventies. That caused me to wonder why this story about white women and how they treated their help in the sixties, touched me in such a deep way and why I couldn't put it down. Why I loved and understood all of the stories characters, even the mean ones. But of even greater interest to me, is that the person I related to most was not the white woman, but Aibeleen, the middle-aged African American maid. She was a strong and wonderful character and I was rooting for her the whole story.

I think what hit me the hardest about this story was both Caucasian and African American people were stuck. They were trapped by their elders' beliefs. Racism is taught. It's not inherant. The heroine was trapped by her own upbringing, her own family's feelings, her fiancee and his family's feelings, her friends beliefs, but she did risk a lot to take action and expose some of the cruelties of the time. But Aibeleen, she was the real heroine. The risks she took were by far the greater.

I think what made Ms. Stockett's story believable, is she wrote from her truth. She'd grown up in the south in the sixties and had an absent mother, and was raised by an African American nanny whom she adored. It came through on the page. She deftly painted her characters with sensitivity, honesty, and true understanding of both sides of the social structure and the cruelties of those times. I think. She didn't preach. She didn't dress it up. She told her story simply, as she had experienced it. We're discussing this story at our next bookclub meeting. But what I would love to hear are comments about this story from African American women.

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