Katherine Stockett’s new book, The Help, deals with racial tension in 1962 Mississippi between a white family and their black maid. The story revolves around the stories of three women. Skeeter, 22, who is daughter to the Mississippi home, her wise and regal maid Aibileen and Aibileen’s sassy friend Minny the cook are the main characters.
The Help exemplifies the tension and the boundaries between friendship and the rules of their time. It proves the lines of race and segregation were meant to be broken. I would absolutely recommend The Help to anyone interested in southern fiction, period drama, or someone who is interested in giving a new author a try. I promise that this one will be worth your time.
She stepped in front of the podium. It was her first book and her first tour, but she stood with confidence in front of those who had traveled to listen to her speak. The crowd was just big enough to fill the room without being intimidating. She breathed and read.
The Help is Kathryn Stockett’s recently published first book, and I had the pleasure of viewing her on her very first book tour at Malaprops Bookstore and Café in Asheville. She was an incredibly soft spoken but clearly passionate writer that took the time to read from her book and describe the process of publishing to her audience.
In the writing of her book, Stockett turned to her own childhood for inspiration. She was born and raised in Mississippi and also grew up with a black maid, Demetri, as a child. It wasn’t until she was older and graduated from college that she realized that other people did not grow up with black servants. Stockett saw this as an opportunity to speak for Demitri and show love for a person who was more than just a maid to Stockett. She wanted to show those lines being crossed and how the times actually strengthened the bond of her characters Aibileen, Skeeter and Missy just as Demitri and Stockett’s bond grew stronger throughout their lives. She even modeled Aibileen after Demitri, though not completely, as she wanted to give Aibeleen a life of her own.
Stockett also discussed just how long it took her to get her first book published, despite working in the magazine business for years in New York City. She said it took her “three years to write and five to get published with Penguin.” Now the book is being sold to thirteen countries and translated into ten languages. As for advice to other writers, she commented on how “important it is to edit” as Stockett received years of rejection letters from agents before someone finally believed in her and sold the rights to Penguin. She also said that “writers are stubborn” and “they have to be able to survive all of the rejection letters.”
(For more information on the author, feel free to visit her website at: www.kathrynstockett.com. Malaprops also has some other events coming up, so be sure to check out the dates on our Books & Literature Events Calendar)