|February 10, 2009|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|813/.6 22 ,|
|LC Class||PS3619.T636 H45 2009|
The Help is a 2009 novel by American author Kathryn Stockett. The story is about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. A USA Today article called it one of the "summer sleeper hits". An early review in The New York Times notes Stockett's "affection and intimacy buried beneath even the most seemingly impersonal household connections" and says the book is a "button-pushing, soon to be wildly popular novel". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said of the book: "This heartbreaking story is a stunning début from a gifted talent."
The novel is Stockett's first. It took her five years to complete and was rejected by 60 literary agents before agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent Stockett. The Help has since been published in 35 countries and three languages. As of August 2011, it has sold five million copies and has spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.
The Help's audiobook version is narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell. Spencer was Stockett's original inspiration for the character of Minny, and also plays her in the film adaptation.
The Help is set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, and told primarily from the first-person perspectives of three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen is an African-American maid who cleans houses and cares for the young children of various white families. Her first job since her own 24-year-old son, Treelore, died from an accident on his job is tending the Leefolt household and caring for their toddler, Mae Mobley. Minny is Aibileen's confrontational friend who frequently tells her employers what she thinks of them, resulting in her having been fired from nineteen jobs. Minny's most recent employer was Mrs. Walters, mother of Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is the social leader of the community, and head of the Junior League.
Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is the daughter of a prominent white family whose cotton farm employs many African Americans in the fields, as well as in the household. Skeeter has just finished college and comes home with dreams of becoming a writer. Her mother's dream is for Skeeter to get married. Skeeter frequently wonders about the sudden disappearance of Constantine, the maid who raised her. She had been writing to Skeeter while she was away at college and her last letter promised a surprise upon her homecoming. Skeeter's family tells her that Constantine abruptly quit, then went to live with relatives in Chicago. Skeeter does not believe that Constantine would just leave and continually pursues anyone she thinks has information about her to come forth, but no one will discuss the former maid.
The life that Constantine led while being the help to the Phelan family leads Skeeter to the realization that her friends' maids are treated very differently from the way the white employees are treated. She decides (with the assistance of a publisher) that she wants to reveal the truth about being a colored maid in Mississippi. Skeeter struggles to communicate with the maids and gain their trust. The dangers of undertaking writing a book about African Americans speaking out in the South during the early 1960s hover constantly over the three women.
At the 84th Academy Awards, Octavia Spencer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in this film. The film also received three other Academy Award nominations: Academy Award for Best Picture, Academy Award for Best Actress for Viola Davis, and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain.
Abilene Cooper, a maid who used to work for Stockett's brother, has criticized the author for stealing her life story without her knowledge and sued her for $75,000 in damages. Cooper also criticized her for comparing the character's skin color to a cockroach which to her is racism. A Hinds County, Mississippi judge threw the case out of court, citing the statute of limitations. Stockett denies her claim of stealing her likeness, and says she only met her briefly.
Awards and honors
- New York Times bestseller (Fiction, 2009, 2011)
- Amazon's Best Books of the Year (#19, 2009)
- Orange Prize Longlist (2010)
- Indies Choice Book Award (Adult Debut, 2010)
- Townsend Prize for Fiction (2010)
- Exclusive Books Boeke Prize (2009)
- SIBA Book Award (Fiction, 2010)
- International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Longlist (2011)
- Christian Science Monitor Best Book (Fiction, 2009)
- Memmott, Carol (July 31, 2008). "Kate Stockett's 'The Help' is the hot book this summer". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Maslin, Janet (February 18, 2009). "Racial Insults and Quiet Bravery in 1950s Mississippi". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- Dollacker, Sarah Sacha (February 1, 2009). "Segregation tale describes bond of women". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
- Calkin, Jessamy (July 16, 2009). "The maid's tale: Kathryn Stockett examines slavery and racism in America's Deep South". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2009-10-20.
- "Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help' Turned Down 60 Times Before Becoming a Best Seller". More Magazine.
- Kehe, Marjorie (May 14, 2010). "With book sales still strong, 'The Help' will begin filming". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
- Williams, Wyatt. "Kathryn Stockett: Life in the belle jar". Creative Loafing Atlanta. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- D'Souza, Karen. "'The Help' is poised to become chick flick of the summer". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- Fleming, Michael (15 December 2009). "Chris Columbus fast-tracks 'Help'". Variety.
- Churcher, Sharon (4 September 2011). "Her family hired me as a maid for 12 years but then she stole my life and made it a Disney movie". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 12 September 2011.
- Mitchell, Jerry. "'The Help' lawsuit tossed out". The Clarion Ledger.
- Chaney, Jen. "‘The Help’ lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett is dismissed". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2012.