The Help is the latest book I’ve read. I finished it on the 8th of December. But it was the second time that I’ve read this. And I didn’t expect to be as touched by the story the second time as I was the first time that I read it!
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
The story is about Skeeter Phelan, a white woman living in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s. And two Black maids named Aibileen and Minny. Tired of the segregation and the way her friends treat her maids. And also, because she wants to be a journalist, Skeeter has the idea of writing a sort of sociological essay on how the Black maids are treated by the white families they tend to. To know both the good and the bad.
Once Skeeter gets the approval of a publisher in New York, she has to convince maids to help her with her book. Even though it will be published anonymously. Aibileen doesn’t want to help her with the book because she is afraid of what might happen to her if someone found out what they were doing. As the story goes further, Aibileen accepts to help Skeeter with the book. And says she’s going to convince other maids to join them and tell their stories. But only one agrees, and reluctantly, Minny, who is Aibileen’s best friend.
After only two interviews, Skeeter gets a proposal from her publisher in New York. They say that if she can get a dozen maids’ interview, then she might consider publishing the book. Skeeter agrees in the hope that it will be easy for Aibileen to convince all the other maids. But much to her disappointment, none of them agree. A few weeks after, one of the leaders of the Black community in Jackson gets shot. And one of the maids gets imprisoned for having stolen a ring from her employer, one of Skeeter’s best friends. That is when dozens of maids agree to interview with Skeeter because they realize that they have nothing to lose and everything to gain if that book is published.
After all the interviews are written, Skeeter sends the manuscript. And along with Aibileen and Minny waits for an answer from the publisher. Because they became friends during the whole of the project, Skeeter begins to be more and more afraid for Aibileen.
The book almost doesn’t feel like fiction. It almost feels like it is a real story, transposed in a fictitious world. And the writer said it herself. She used pieces of her own life. Of the real maid who raised her when she was little to create an authentic, relatable story for her readers.
This book touched me even more because I am a mixed-race. It’s rare that in a book, neither the white characters nor the black characters are made up of clichées and are all complex, with multiple layers. For example, in the beginning, Skeeter only wanted to write a book to get a job as a journalist in New York. But as the story goes on, she realizes the way her friends and family treat their help. And starts viewing her book from another point of view. She starts to become an advocate for civil rights, and in the end, she has changed things for black maids in Jackson as more of them are treated with respect.
In the end, I would say that, for me, the best character was Minny. She was the most relatable character of the novel. Minny doesn’t put up with segregation the way Aibileen does, she doesn’t want to get used to the way “things work,” she only puts up with segregation because she has four children, is pregnant, she is only a maid because she has to feed them. She also became one so that her children don’t have to and can go on and study and get a better job than she ever could. I also love her because she is, at least for me, the character in the book who lost the most when she decided to help Skeeter with her writing.
Should you read it?
I loved this book because it is more than just a story about segregation in the South of the US. It’s a real testament to a human’s ability to distinguish right from wrong. This book shows that even though you have lost all hope for yourself, of bettering your condition. Someone is always going to keep hoping for you. So I would read it if I were you!