ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)  

Google
 

the one African male whom Stockett develops as more than a symbol of the Civil Rights

Movement is Leroy, the husband of Minny, and he beats Minny regularly.  Is there not

one maid whose husband does not beat her?  Is there not one average African male who is

not a threat to his community?  And as a well-skilled craftsman, Stockett appropriates

and connects Leroy’s evil with the evil of white male sexism and schizophrenia,

 

 

Books by C. Liegh McInnis

 

Scripts:  Sketches and Tales of Urban Mississippi  /  Da Black Book of Linguistic Liberation / Confessions: Brainstormin' from Midnite 'til Dawn  

 

  Matters of reality: Body, mind & soul / Prose: Essays and Personal Letters  /  Searchin' for Psychedelica

 

The Lyrics of Prince:  A Literary Look at a Creative, Musical Poet, Philosopher, and Storyteller

 

*   *   *   *   *

Who or What Does The Help Help?

A Brief Review by C. Liegh McInnis

 

Okay, so I finally finished the four hundred and forty-four pages that constitute Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.  An older African (American) female colleague gave me this book a year ago to thank me for providing a tutorial for a program that she coordinates.  I could not believe that anyone who knew anything about me would give me a book written by a white woman, telling the story of African (American) maids working during the 1960s who collaborate with an aspiring white female writer to tell their stories of working for white women, essentially using African people as backdrop or troping material for her story in the way that Tennessee Williams did more than a few times.  And for eleven months it sat on my shelf, not even in its correct alphabetized-by-authors place as I keep all my books but on the end where miscellaneous books reside.  Even as I heard about the book being a New York Times Bestseller and then, of course, having a movie based on it, I was never once tempted to take it down and see just how much like Gone with the Wind it could be.  Yet when my wife took me to see Jumping the Broom as an apology for dragging me to see the current Madea film (I like Why Did I Get Married?, Family that Preys, and For Colored Girls, but the current one just doesn’t do it for me.), one of the previews was for The Help

Often, of course, movie trailers lie well, including the best scenes or moments in the promo of a film that is a hour and a half dud.  However, there are some trailers that when one sees them one knows that the studio has put all of its eggs, weight, and budget behind this film.  It is obvious when a film has been given the first-class treatment.  Again, a potential viewer may not be able to tell whether or not the film will be any good, but one can tell how much the studio believes in the film based on the trailer and additional promotion.  It was that reality that said to me, “At some point someone who loves this book and movie will ask you about it; don’t you want to have enough ammunition to dismiss it as more white fantasy with a white female protagonist bonding with African women over the brutality of men, especially African men, saving themselves from the oppression of men, especially African men?”  So nine days ago, I opened to page one.

The Help is a well-written book by a well-schooled writer, Kathryn Stockett, who has a wonderful eye for detail (historical and cultural), a flare for imagery (descriptive and symbolic), and a wit that echoes three of my favorite storytellers:  Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, and Jerry Clower, especially in the notion that a story with interesting and well-developed characters is always more rewarding than a work of fiction that is more concerned with showing the latest “new school” tricks of fiction, especially as it relates to East Coast minimalism.  Further, well-crafted books are books that can be taught on two levels, and The Help achieves this.  It can be used to teach the basic elements of fiction writing, and it can be used to show how creative writing is often crafted to enlighten or impact socio-political condition, proving Du Bois to be right that in the final analysis “all art is propaganda” (757).  The Help does not rise to the levels of James Baldwin, Toni Morrison,  or James F. Cooper, but whose work does?  Certainly, not mine.  However, Stockett has mastered the weaving of the personal and communal narrative and the ability to paint the complexities of race rather than to pander to flat, one-dimensional ideologies and characters, which is achieved by her ability to craft characters in a storm of internal and external conflict, for the most part, on both sides of the race line. 

When I read any work, I am always trying to discover two elements:  creative techniques that I can use and teach to students, which I have briefly discussed, and a central issue or several issues that can be used in the development of a paper.  Stockett has presented at least twelve issues that can be discussed in a lit crit piece:  the perpetuation of fantasy antebellum society for which whites are willing to lose their humanity to maintain (such as in Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury), Christianity as a tool of white supremacy, Christianity as a linguistic battleground for Civil Rights, storytelling as socio-political activism (which includes Aibileen—a maid and co-narrator of the text—as a griot or the creative writer as shepherd and philosopher), the tragedy of an unfulfilled life due to embracing the physical over the metaphysical, African (American) maids as another “Nigger Jim” figure, a general commentary on poor and proper parenting or negligent white mothers having enough money to hide their poor parenting, white supremacy as schizophrenia passed to and manifested in African people as colorism or self-hatred, the manner in which African (American) intellect and culture has existed despite and beyond white culture and oppression as an example of African intellect and culture existing before white culture, the truth and importance of acknowledging African diversity as complex and layered beings (which speaks to their humanity as Margaret Walker does with and for the slaves in Jubilee), the struggle of good-intentioned whites to overcome their own racism, and (of course) the troping or connecting of African oppression with female oppression (allowing the book to be a manifesto on the plight of the female under male oppression).  Each of these themes is well painted through intricate character development and creative plot weaving.

There seems to be only two flaws, and both can be considered major.  The first issue is the use of faulty or flawed dialect, specifically Stockett’s use of “Law” for “Lawd” as in “Lawd have mercy.”  I have been unable to finish a few books wherein I found flawed or inauthentic dialect, but in this case it does not seem to bother me as much, probably because there are no other glaring dialect issues.  Also, I realize that I am reading a book through a white writer’s eyes (even though the narrative is equally shared by two maids and a recent white female college graduate), and I can accept that to her ears she does not hear the “d” in “Lawd.”  Because there is not an abundance of flaws in the dialect, I am not distracted from the narrative though a few of my friends and colleagues have been too distracted to even finish chapter one.  Secondly, I agree with Ishmael Reed that, in most cases, white feminists use the African male as the face of sexism.  And I cannot help but wonder if this is true in The Help

While she is clear, vivid, and precise about the horrors of racism that Afro-Southerners endure in the 1960s, Stockett presents two positive adult white males (Skeeter’s father and Celia’s husband) and not one positive adult African male.  There are two male sons of maids that are portrayed in a positive manner, but neither achieves maturity as a sovereign adult male:  one dies in an accident, and one is beaten until he is blind.  In fact, the one African male whom Stockett develops as more than a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement is Leroy, the husband of Minny, and he beats Minny regularly.  Is there not one maid whose husband does not beat her?  Is there not one average African male who is not a threat to his community?  And as a well-skilled craftsman, Stockett appropriates and connects Leroy’s evil with the evil of white male sexism and schizophrenia, especially when Minny and Celia, Minny’s boss, are attacked by an insane, naked white man.  Yet, in combining the two events to develop her theme of universal or female oppression and struggle, Stockett seemingly paints Leroy and all African men with a broader, more stereotypical stroke than white men.  The insane, naked white man in Celia’s backyard is never equated with all other white men.  However, just before the insane, naked white man appears, Stockett has Celia showing concern for Minny’s plight, even attempting to come to Minny’s aid: 

“Minny?” Miss Celia says, eyeing the cut again.  “Are you sure you [cut your forehead] in the bathtub?”  I run the water just to get some noise in the room.  “I told you I did and I did.  Alright?”  She gives me a suspicious look and points her finger at me.  “Alright, but I’m fixing you a cup of coffee and I want you to just take the day off, okay?…You know,” she says kind of low, “You can talk to me about anything, Minny.” (304-305).

During the attack by the insane, naked white man, Stockett connects Minny’s beating from Leroy to the beating that she takes from the insane, naked white man:  “It’s like he knows me, Minny Jackson.  He’s staring with his lip curled like I deserved every bad day I’ve ever lived, every night I haven’t slept, every blow Leroy’s ever given.  Deserved it and more” (305).  And after Celia comes to Minny’s aid, in the similar way that Skeeter, the book’s white co-protagonist, comes to the aid of and provides voice to the maids, Stockett connects, once again, Minny’s beating by Leroy to the beating by the insane, naked white man, but does so in a manner that can be seen as painting the majority of African males with this stereotypical brush: 

“‘So what you gone do about it?’  Aibileen asks and I know she means the eye.  We don’t talk about me leaving Leroy.  Plenty of black men leave their families behind like trash in a dump, but it’s just not something the colored women do” (310 – 311). 

Stockett is careful to have her character use “plenty” rather than most, but the message is received, especially since there are no white women who exist in physically abusive relationships in the novel.  And because her own, childhood maid and caretaker was “married to a mean, abusive drinker,” then that must be the lasting image of African men in her novel.  In fact for all of the fear and potential consequence the African women face from providing stories for the book, it seems that the greatest threat comes from Leroy, as Minny states:  “Look, Aibileen, I ain’t gone lie.  I’m scared Leroy gone kill me if he find out” (429).  And when Leroy discovers that he has been fired from his job because of Minny contributing stories to the book, of course, all black savage Negro hell breaks out:  “Minny panting and heaving.  ‘He throw the kids in the yard and lock me in the bathroom and say he gone light the house on fire with me locked inside!” (437). 

Thus, escaping life with Leroy, who by now has become the face of all African men, is as important as escaping white supremacy:  “Still, what’s important is, Minny’s away from Leroy” (439).  Whether Stockett knows it or not, this representation of African domestic violence is just one more use of writing as skin privilege, one more use of writing as a smokescreen to keep hidden the obscene abusive relationships that do exist in “white” marriages and partnerships.  Stokett writes well, but she runs the risk of hopelessly reinforcing ideas of white supremacy, even if she does so unconsciously.  Additionally, those who have profited from reading Dessa Rose, Beloved, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman—works that deal with recording someone else’s story—may find that Stockett has consciously or unconsciously used the African male body as a symbol or smokescreen for all evil or merely to placate the supremacy of her white readers. 

Furthermore what Stockett seems to miss or forget is that the power of the maids’ storytelling is the balance that their story brings to the American narrative.  What was wrong with Amos and Andy is not that they existed but that they existed alone with no different narrative to balance or provide a well-rounded notion of African people.  Accordingly, white people are not offended or threatened by The Beverly Hillbillies because Marcus Welby, Ward and June, and Ozzie and Harriet provided a counter-narrative to paint a holistic portrait of white Americans.  In fact, within The Beverly Hillbillies exists the counter-narrative of Milburn Drysdale and Jane Hathaway.  Yet, for The Help, one can leave with the notion that African women should fear African men as much as they should fear the evils of white supremacy.

As one who has engaged countless books, I have developed the ability to take what is well-done or beneficial from a work and ignore what is poorly done or what is not effective.  For instance, I continue to enjoy two hundred and twenty-one of the two hundred and forty-two pages of African (American) poet and theorist Carl Phillips’ book Coin of the Realm:  Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry.  Not only do I not agree with the twenty-one pages that constitute the chapter “Boon and Burden:  Identity in Contemporary American Poetry,” in which he provides his assessment of the poetry of the Black Arts Movement, I find his attempt to couch his subjective denouncement of the poetry of the Black Arts Movement as objective theory to be thin and flimsy.  However, the rest of the book is a worthwhile read. 

In this same manner, Stockett’s painting African men in such broad strokes does not completely destroy the narrative for me.  There was no way to expect a southern white writer, even one self-exiled to New York, to indict solely white men or white culture for the evils of the South.  Besides, the Negro boogeyman still sells as well as sex does.  For chronological and cultural context she evokes the names of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr., even as they are moreso flat, one-dimensional symbols of the moment or the meaning of the moment, but there is no adult African male who rises to the humanity and goodness of Skeeter’s father and Celia’s husband.  Still, what saves the narrative is her wonderful use of imagery, her ability to construct complex characters for complex times—especially the manner in which Skeeter is forced to realize and engage her own racist tendencies and sensibilities, the presentation of Aibileen and Minny as intellectual equals to Skeeter—especially their full development into storytellers, the novel's biting humor, and the unflinching portrayal of the horrors endured by African people in America, showing the Klan and white southern culture to be equal to the Taliban.  After completing the manuscript, Aibileen and Minny are finally able to impress on Skeeter the seriousness of their endeavor:

The room grows quiet.  It’s dark outside the window.  The post office is already closed so I brought [the manuscript] over to show to Aibileen and Minny one last time before I mail it…“What if they find out?” Aibileen says quietly…We haven’t talked about this in a while…we haven’t really discussed the actual consequences besides the maids losing their jobs.  For the past eight months, all we’ve thought about is just getting it written… “Minny, you got your kids to think about,” Aibileen says…[Skeeter says] “Aibileen, do you really think they’d…hurt us?  I mean, like what’s in the papers?”  Aibileen cocks her head at me, confused.  She wrinkles her forehead like we’ve had a misunderstanding.  “They’d beat us.  They’d come out here with baseball bats.  Maybe they won’t kill us but…’” (365-366).

As Stockett echoes in the postlude, “Too Little, Too Late,” “In The Help there is one line that I truly prize:  ‘Wasn’t that the point of the book?  For women to realize, We are just two people.  Not that much separates us.  Not nearly as much as I’d thought’” (451).  For Stockett, The Help seems to be a commentary and celebration of the “universality” of humanity, especially the plight of women in a sexist world.  And while I agree more with Langston Hughes’s notion of “universality” from his seminal essay, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” that “universality” is more of a trap or ploy to create within African people an “urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible” (1267), I can applaud Stockett for attempting to tell her truth, which is another motif of the novel, and for having her protagonist struggle with that truth in much the same manner as Baldwin does in Evidence of Things Not Seen

Skeeter struggles with her relationship with Minny who is not as placating as Aibileen, and she struggles with just how much truth she tells about her own mother’s relationship with their former maid, Constantine, who was like a mother to her.  Yet, what makes Skeeter heroic is not that she single-handedly saves or leads Aibileen and Minny or becomes the lone wolf against the backlash of her white community but that she continues her journey toward self-discovery as she continues her journey to learn every aspect about the community that has birthed and molded her, even when the journey does not promise anything but the truth, which very well may be a truth that will disrupt the foundation of the life she knows. 

The Help is already a New York Times Bestseller and will probably be a summer block buster.  And while I wonder if this same book would be loved if written by an African woman, especially considering that even at so-called liberal MFA and PhD creative writing programs and literary journals white professors and editors are careful not to allow whites to be painted as the sole antagonist in African poetry and fiction, which makes it even more interesting that Stockett does not list Richard Wright , Margaret Walker Alexander Alexander, and Ellen Douglas as noteworthy Mississippians in her postlude, there is no denying that Stockett has crafted a well-told story that receives its tension from the layering of characterization and the conflict that Stockett battled as she wrote it:

The Help is fiction, by and large.  Still, as I wrote it, I wondered an awful lot what my family would think of it, and what Demetrie [the maid who helped raise her] would have thought too, even though she was long dead.  I was scared, a lot of the time, that I was crossing a terrible line, writing in the voice of a black person.  I was afraid I would fail to describe a relationship that was so intensely influential in my life, so loving, so grossly stereotyped in American history…Like my feelings for Mississippi, my feelings for The Help conflict greatly…I am afraid I have told too much…I am afraid I have told too little…What I am sure about is this:  I don’t presume to think that I know what it really felt like to be a black woman in Mississippi, especially in the 1960s.  I don’t think it is something any white woman on the other end of a black woman’s paycheck could ever truly understand.  But trying to understand is vital to our humanity (450-451).

To be clear, I am a Black Nationalist who thinks that Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in professional baseball only served to limit greatly the number of black-owned businesses as integration has merely meant the perpetuation of African second-class citizenship.  And for those quick to identify the election of President Obama as a great achievement of American integration I assert that he was only elected because Bush II drove the American Titanic into the economic iceberg and that the emergence of the Tea Party has the same historical significance of the emergence of the Klan after the Hayes-Tilden Compromise

However, the value in Stockett’s writing is that she does not settle for the falsity of “Can’t we all just get along?” but seeks to present difficult questions about the struggle of personal and communal concerns, showing that we all must make difficult decisions of how best to navigate those waters to achieve what is best for oneself, one’s race, and others who seem different than us.  Though not nearly as dense, Stockett uses the historical novel in much the same way as Walker uses Jubilee—to forecast, make commentary, and raise timely questions that the readers will be forced to ignore or answer.  But, even if those questions are ignored, Stockett has fulfilled her artistic responsibility of painting a work that raises these uncomfortable questions.

Works Cited

Du Bois, W. E. B.  “The Criteria of Negro Art.”  The Norton Anthology of  African American  Literature.  Ed.  Henry Louis Gates.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Hughes, Langston.  “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.”  The Norton Anthology of  African American  Literature.  Ed.  Henry Louis Gates.  New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Stockett, Kathryn.  The Help.  New York:  Amy Einhorn Books, 2009.

posted 26 May 2011

*   *   *   *   *

C. Liegh McInnis is an instructor of English at Jackson State University, the publisher and editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal, and the author of seven books, including four collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction (Scripts:  Sketches and Tales of Urban Mississippi), and one work of literary criticism (The Lyrics of Prince:  A Literary Look at a Creative, Musical Poet, Philosopher, and Storyteller).  He has presented papers at national conferences, such as College Language Association and the Neo-Griot Conference, and his work has appeared in Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Sable, New Delta Review, The Black World Today, In Motion Magazine, MultiCultural Review, A Deeper Shade, New Laurel Review, ChickenBones, and the Oxford American

In January of 2009, C. Liegh, along with eight other poets, was invited to read poetry in Washington, DC by the NAACP for their Inaugural Poetry Reading celebrating the election of President Barack Obama.  He has also been invited by colleges and libraries all over the country to read his poetry and fiction and to lecture on various topics, such creative writing and various aspects of African American literature, music, and history.  McInnis is editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal.—PsychedelicLiterature

*   *   *   *   *

Black Magnolias Literary Journal is a quarterly that uses poetry, fiction, and prose to examine and celebrate the social, political, and aesthetic accomplishments of African Americans with an emphasis on Afro-Mississippians and Afro-Southerners.

We welcome pieces on a variety of African American and Afro-Southern culture, including history, politics, education, incidents/events, social life, and literature. All submissions are to be made by e-mail as a word attachment to psychedeliclit@bellsouth.net . Each issue costs $12.00, and a year’s subscription is $40.00.

 

*   *   *   *   *

Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help—Duchess Harris, Ph.D., J.D.—I did not attend Wednesday’s movie release of The Help from DreamWorks Pictures, based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett.  Why, you ask? Because I read the book.

Last week New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni saw an advance screening of the movie and referred to it as  “…a story of female grit and solidarity—of strength through sisterhood.”  He wrote, “The book’s author, Kathryn Stockett, told me that she felt that most civil rights literature had taken a male perspective, leaving ‘territory that hadn’t been covered much.’” What neither Bruni nor Stockett acknowledge is that the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it.

I recently read The Help with an open mind, despite some of the criticism it has received.  I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are.  The novel opens on the fourth Wednesday in August 1962, at the bridge club meeting in the modest home of 23-year old, social climbing Miss Leefolt.  The plot unfolds when her “friend” and the novel’s antagonist, Miss Hilly, the President of the Jackson, Mississippi Junior League, announces that she will support legislation for a “Home Help Sanitation Initiative,” a bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. (10)

We learn early on that Miss Skeeter, the only bridge club lady with a college degree and no husband, opposes the idea.  By page 12, she asks Miss Leefolt’s maid Aibleen, “Do you ever wish you could…change things?”  This lays the groundwork for a 530-page novel telling the story of Black female domestics in Jackson.

The first two chapters were written in the voice of a Black maid named Aibileen, so I hoped that the book would actually be about her.  But this is America, and any Southern narrative that actually touches on race must focus on a noble white protagonist to get us through such dangerous territory (in this case, Miss Skeeter; in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch).  As a Black female reader, I ended up feeling like one of “the help,” forced to tend to Miss Skeeter’s emotional sadness over the loss of her maid (whom she loved more than her own white momma) and her social trials regarding a clearly racist “Jim Crow” bill.

What is most concerning about the text is the empathy that we are supposed to have for Miss Skeeter.  This character is not a true white civil rights activist like the historical figure, Viola Liuzzo (April 11, 1925 – March 25, 1965), a mother of five from Michigan murdered by Ku Klux Klan members after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama.  Instead, Skeeter is a lonely recent grad of Ole Miss, who returns home after college, devastated that her maid is gone and that she is “stuck” with her parents.  She remarks, “I had to accept that Constantine, my one true ally, had left me to fend for myself with these people.” (81) Constantine is Miss Skeeter’s Black maid, and it’s pretty transparent that Stockett is writing about herself.  We learn this in the novel’s epilogue, “Too Little, Too Late:  Kathryn Stockett, in her own words.”

“My parents divorced when I was six.   Demetrie became even more important then.  When my mother went on one of her frequent trips[…] I’d cry and cry on Demetrie’s shoulder, missing my mother so bad I’d get a fever from it.” (p. 527)

                                                                                                                                                                             photo right: Duchess Harris, Ph.D., J.D.

“I’m pretty sure I can say that no one in my family ever asked Demetrie what it felt like to be black in Mississippi, working for our white family.  It never occurred to us to ask.  It was everyday life.  It wasn’t something people felt compelled to examine.  I have wished, for many years, that I’d been old enough and thoughtful enough to ask Demetrie the same question. She died when I was sixteen.  I’ve spent years imagining what her answer would be.  And that is why I wrote this book.” (p. 530)

It would have behooved Stockett to ask her burning question of another Black domestic, or at least read some memoirs on the subject, but instead she substitutes her imagination for understanding.  And the result is that The Help isn’t for Black women at all, and quickly devolves into just another novel by and for white women.

But when the novel attempts to enter the mindset of the Black women, like Aibleen or her best friend Minny, suddenly we enter the realm of the ridiculous.  Although Stockett’s writing shows her talent, her ignorance of the real lives of the Black women bleeds through.  Her Black characters lack the credibility reflected in Coming of Age in Mississippi, a 1968 memoir by Anne Moody, an African American woman growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1960s.  Moody recalls doing domestic work for white families from the age of nine. Moody’s voice is one of a real Black woman who left her own house and family each morning to cook in another woman’s kitchens.

So instead of incorporating a real Black woman’s voice in a novel purported to being about Black domestics, the Skeeter/Stockett character is comfortingly centralized, and I can see why white women relate to her.  She is depicted as a budding feminist, who is enlightened and brave.  But in reality, she uses the stories of the Black domestics in the name of “sisterhood” to launch her own career, and then leaves them behind.  In my experience, the Skeeters of the world grow up to be Gloria Steinem.

In a certain sense, The Help exemplifies the disconnect many Black women have felt from Feminist Movement through the second wave.  For 20 years, I read accounts of Black women who were alienated from that movement primarily populated by middle-class white women.  Black women have asserted their voices since the 1960s as a means of revising feminism and identifying the gap previously denied by the movement and filled by their minds, spirits and bodies. Yet, because I was born in the midst of the second wave and the Black Feminist Movement, I never felt alienated, myself, until the 2008 Presidential election.

It started with the extremely unpleasant showdown between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris-Lacewell, (now  Perry) surrounding Steinem’s New York Times op-ed about then-Senator Barack Obama. This was followed by the late Geraldine Ferraro’s dismissive comments that Senator Obama was winning the race because he was not White. “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. … He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”—FeministWire

*   *   *   *   *

Black Maid Sues Says The Help Is Humiliating— By Susan Donaldson James—22 February 2011—A lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, the author of best-selling novel The Help has divided brother and sister in a dispute about the real-life identity of one of her fictional characters. Ablene Cooper, the longtime nanny for Stockett's brother, has filed a $75,000 lawsuit against the author, claiming she was upset by the book that characterizes black maids working for white families in the family's hometown of Jackson, Miss., during the 1960s.

Cooper also once babysat for Stockett's daughter, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger, and the lawsuit alleges that she had been assured by Stockett, 42, that her likeness would not be used in the book.The 2009 novel was an instant favorite among book clubs, written in the voice of black "help" by a woman raised by maids herself and who is white.Cooper, 60, maintains that the book's fictional character—Aibileen Clark—is her. She says the alleged unauthorized appropriation of her name and image is emotionally upsetting, and her employers, Carol and Robert Stockett III agree. He is Kathryn Stockett's brother and employs Cooper as a nanny and maid.—ABCnews

*   *   *   *   *

AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

The Help

By  Kathryn Stockett

Four peerless actors render an array of sharply defined black and white characters in the nascent years of the civil rights movement. They each handle a variety of Southern accents with aplomb and draw out the daily humiliation and pain the maids are subject to, as well as their abiding affection for their white charges. The actors handle the narration and dialogue so well that no character is ever stereotyped, the humor is always delightful, and the listener is led through the multilayered stories of maids and mistresses. The novel is a superb intertwining of personal and political history in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, but this reading gives it a deeper and fuller power.—Publishers Weekly

In writing about such a troubled time in American history, Southern-born Stockett takes a big risk, one that paid off enormously. Critics praised Stockett's skillful depiction of the ironies and hypocrisies that defined an era, without resorting to depressing or controversial clichés. Rather, Stockett focuses on the fascinating and complex relationships between vastly different members of a household. Additionally, reviewers loved (and loathed) Stockett's three-dimensional characters—and cheered and hissed their favorites to the end. Several critics questioned Stockett's decision to use a heavy dialect solely for the black characters. Overall, however, The Help is a compassionate, original story, as well as an excellent choice for book groups.—Bookmarks Magazine

*   *   *   *   *

Living In, Living Out

African American Domestics in Washington, D.C., 1910-1940

By Elizabeth Clark-Lewis

This vivid tale of social transformation is original; the interview material is stunning. No one else has the richness of data about women making the transition from rural to urban, agricultural to industrial, southern to northern, family-dominated to individual-directed life. This is an extraordinarily rich account of a group of women in the very process of making these shifts basic to the creation of our urban, individualistic world. That they are African American women domestics makes the story even more striking and delicious.—Phyllis Palmer, author of Domesticity and Dirt

With candor and passion, the women interviewed tell of leaving their families and adjusting to city life “up North,” of being placed as live-in servants, and of the frustrations and indignities they endured as domestics. By networking on the job, at churches, and at penny savers clubs, they found ways to transform their unending servitude into an employer-employee relationship—gaining a new independence that could only be experienced by living outside of their employers' homes. Clark-Lewis points out that their perseverance and courage not only improved their own lot but also transformed work life for succeeding generations of African American women. A series of in-depth vignettes about the later years of these women bears poignant witness to their efforts to carve out lives of fulfilment and dignity.—Smithsonian Books

*   *   *   *   *

To 'Joy My Freedom

Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War

By Tera W. Hunter

With great breadth, sensitivity, and intellectual integrity, Tera Hunter reorients southern history toward the urban working class. This tour de force further liberates African-American history from the need always to relate to whites. Bravo!Nell Irvin Painter, Princeton University

By bringing to life the experiences, aspirations, and struggles of the black domestic workers of Atlanta, Tera Hunter opens a new window on the study of emancipation and its aftermath and, in so doing, tremendously enriches our understanding of Reconstruction and the New South.Eric Foner, Columbia University

In To 'Joy My Freedom, Tera W. Hunter charts the efforts of African-American women in Atlanta to live fulfilling lives despite an all-pervasive racism, which was most terrifying in the city's infamous race riot of 1906...One can only applaud Hunter's efforts to recover the experience of her subjects from obscurity.Times Literary Supplement

*   *   *   *   *

 

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues


1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        

Enjoy!

*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

 

 

 

 

 

updated 7 February 2012

 

 

 

Home    Music and Musicians   Washerwomen Table  Jean Damu Table 

Related files:  Prince's The Rainbow Children    Blues as Secularized Spirituals       Quilting the Black Eyed Pea      Jimi Hendrix—"Like A Rolling Stone” 

Unschooler Education Celebrated: A Response    Tera Hunter & Joy My Freedom   Being a Maid By James McBride    My Mother Was a Maid   Film Reviews of The Help

Witches, Bitches, and Niggers