The Help, the debut novel by Kathryn Stockett, published nearly ten years ago, has the remarkable ability to remain relevant in today’s polarized climate of questions and the search for truth and justice. Here we meet three different women: Skeeter Phelan, Aibileen Clark, and Minny Jackson, all wanting to change the status quo without knowing how or when to start. Set in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, there is a strong divide between the races that results in violence and fear among the residents as the Civil Rights Movement continues throughout the nation. The power struggle exists in the home and work front, which often intersect for the African American maids that cater to the whims of their white families. Domestic workers Aibileen and Minny struggle to survive, knowing that speaking out could cost them everything they have – including their own lives. For new college graduate Skeeter Phelan, her restless spirit keeps her from accepting the expected role of housewife and mother. She is hungry for more and angry over the injustice that she sees every day. Her decision to write about unspoken truths between the maids and the families that they work for uncovers the pertinent truth that underneath it all, there is not a great deal that separates individuals from each other – we are all searching for the same thing: a sense of belonging.
The women band together to write an anonymous tell-all book The Help in an effort to take a stand and reject the discrimination that they have known all of their lives. Putting their truth on the page changes more than Jackson, Mississippi; it changes the country, inspiring others to make a difference.
A personal top ten favorite of mine (the movie is also a treat!), this book is often utilized for book clubs and is well worth a read (or if you feel so inclined, several reads). Told in three different narratives (Aibileen's, Skeeter's, and Minny's) that often intersect and overlap, readers are provided multiple perspectives and points of view to the same events throughout the book.
One of the top twenty books of PBS’ ‘Great American Read’ initiative, The Help celebrates friendship, empowerment, and the brave men and women dedicated to standing up for what they believe in, regardless of the cost.