Monday, November 09, 2009

The Help and resentment

I am now considering reading Kathryn Stockett's novel "The Help."

If you've been following the fawning and the criticism of the book, you'll know why I am actually taking time to think about whether I want to read it.

If you haven't, here's my quick overview of the brouhaha:
Stockett is a southern-born white woman who has written a book with Black maids speaking in dialect. Her white female protagonist goes and captures their oral stories.

The book has gotten so much attention and great reviews and her publishing story is even being covered. (The book was rejected by scores of literary agents before she hit paydirt).

I am (was) so reluctant to even see this book, much less read it. Honestly I know that I harbor more than a little resentment when Black stories told by white authors/protagonists are seen as literary victories.

I wonder ...
if there is a Black author whose book, published in the same year, isn't getting even half the attention of this tale.
if there are Black authors who can't even get signed to an agent, much less a publishing house, because their story isn't seen as hot, or authentic, or something.
how many non-Black readers will pick up this book, buy it, read it and spread the word, but will not see books by Black authors because of the way bookstores or organized, or because those books don't receive coverage, or because they just don't look for them.
if this story comes to define the contemporary reading of Black women in the servant class in the South.
if reading it will be annoying ... will I constantly question the voice, the dialect, the motivations.

I am leaning toward reading it because ...
a friend I trust has read it and found it worthwhile.
it's really shallow to have this much resentment about a title I haven' t even read.
it will likely be made into a big Hollywood movie with a great African American cast and we don't get many of those, so I'll have to go see it.
I'm in an MFA program and I really have to make myself read outside of my pleasure reading bounds.
secretly, I want to know what's in her book that's causing all the attention.

I don't begrudge her attention, I think. I just wish I could hear so much attention lavished on my favorite African American authors writing about the Southern experience.

More on Stockett and The Help:
Amazon listing

Kathryn Stockett's site
Huffington Post

The Huffington Post piece links to others ... so it's a good start.


ExpressYourself said...


Memoirs Of a Slave said...

I feel your fustration, but we did this to ourselves. I've written a 72-thousand word historical fiction -- that all my friends love (even in white ones) but litearay agents wont touch it because it's not tyler perryish, or urban enough or gangster enough.
The reason why this authors is getting all the attention is because white,black, hispanic and asian readers expect all types of novels from white authors.
However, minority readers expect a certain style from minority authors which is usually some type of buffoonery. As black readers and authors we have to let the ignorance go, and demand a better product.

p.s. If you get a chance check out my blog.