Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"The Help"

I have lived below the Mason Dixon line my whole life. Yes, part of that time was spent in Texas which really doesn't adhere to the Civil War era label any more but 12 years of my life have been spent in Alabama and Georgia. Seeing as how all of my elementary school years were spent in Alabama and my high school years spent in Georgia, you could say that my education in history has been somewhat limited and never made it past 1899. We would sit in class for weeks discussing the Civil War and by the time I got to middle school I was ready to be done with "the war". I yearned to learn about the roaring 20s and the Great Depression that followed. The wars that changed the face of world and the challenging times of the 20th century never graced the conversations that took place in most of my high school classrooms. Most of my education in these subject matters came from the literature I read in English classes. Can I say I fully absorbed the ideas that were be presented to me then? No, but now I have the opportunity to learn on my own.

I just finished reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett which was as much of an enriching novel as it was a history lesson for me about the the 1960s. Almost every woman in my family has already read this book and when I mentioned that I had started reading it there was a new doorway opened to the history of my family. Most of the people I surround myself with can remember the times when the details described in the book were common place. Those are the types of stories that I like to hear because it makes me realize how much my parents and grandparents have witnessed.

I am tryng to imagine what in today's society is as taboo as the race relations described in "The Help". I still can't decide what I think is going to be my generations' taboo topic. Maybe we won't have one, but it's hard to imagine that we have gotten to a place in our lives where there isn't something that you just can't talk about. We learn from our past and I understand that in the 1960s people didn't know any better but it is continuously shown that most of the time all it takes is one person who is willing to risk their life to make a difference. I am greatful for those people throughout the past 100 years. My life wouldn't be the same if there weren't people fighting for what they believed in and fighting so hard that sometimes they just so happened to change others opinions.

The book points out how important it is for those people to speak their mind. It doesn't even matter how many lies they have to tell to keep people from finding out their secret. In the 1960's, colored women couldn't speak their minds in fear of the consequences. The fact that a white women was willing to take on the task of collecting the stories of the maids and compiling them together to create a complete picture of Jackson, Mississippi shows the bravery of a person who has the chance to change the world. How would we all feel if we got the opportunity to see ourselves through the eyes of someone else? We probably wouldn't enjoy reading about our own actions but if we care as much about our images as the women of the 1960s did then a manuscript of our own lives would probably make us change our tune real quick.

The most surprising thing about the book was the ending. Since the book is told from three different perspectives it's hard to imagine how everything should be tied up. It's not one of those books where you can predict whose going to live happily ever after. There actually isn't complete closure at the end of the novel, yet as a reader you know what comes next. I got the feeling that the three women in the novel had the freedom they deserved which alluded to the years to follow in their lives when most people would also get that freedom.

Definitely a book that made me think, but that's something that I have wanted recently. I want to be challenged by the things I spend my free time on. I want to learn about our past and make a difference in my future. I am glad that such an enjoyable book has opened up my eyes.

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