Monday, February 27, 2017

Women's Lives and Relationships Annotation - The Help

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Author: Kathryn Stockett
Title: The Help
Genre: Women's Lives and Relationships, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: February 10, 2009
Number of Pages: Paperback- 544 pages
Geographical Setting: Jackson, Mississippi
Time Period: 1960s
Series (if applicable): Not a series

Plot Summary: 
The Help takes place in Jackson Mississippi in 1962 during the Civil Rights Movement. Through alternating chapters from the viewpoints of the three main characters, life as an African-American maid in the south during the 1960s is described. Aibileen Clark is one of the main characters who is an African-American maid, raising her seventeenth white child, normally she quietly takes orders from her employers, but because of the way she is continually poorly treated by her employers she is having trouble staying quiet anymore. Her friend Minny Jackson, who is also a maid for a wealthy white family, has never been able to keep quiet about how she is treated. Lastly, is Skeeter Phelan, a young, wealthy white woman who recently graduated from college, even though she has accomplished so much, to her mother's dismay she still hasn't found a husband. Skeeter usually confides in her maid, Constantine, but she has seemingly disappeared and no one will tell her where she has gone. These three story lines intertwine and the women begin to work on writing a tell-all book on how southern African-American maids are treated by their white employers. Even though they are aware of the risks involved they continue their work in hopes of inspiring a change in the world. 

Subject Headings:
Civil Rights Movements-Fiction
African American Women-Fiction
Jackson Mississippi-Fiction

This book is heartwarming, funny and leaves the reader wanting to know more about the wonderful characters described in the book. The three main characters are smart, funny, and strong willed, they prove to themselves and to their community that they deserve a place in the world and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. This book is hopeful and readers will root for their favorite characters and delight in the downfalls of their least favorite characters. The Help is a must-read.

3 Terms that Best Describe this book: Historical, Heartwarming, and Humorous

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights by Tananarive Due and Patricia Stephens Due-Mother and Daughter give alternating view points of the Civil Rights Movement in this book, it describes the hardships that African-American women faced during the Civil Rights Movement.
Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement by Bettye Collier-Thomas- This book discusses the importance of women during the Civil Rights Movement, even though their stories were rarely heard. Various women heroes stories are told throughout the book.
Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1965 by Davis W. Houck- This book discusses the importance of the roles that women, both black and white, played during the Civil Rights Movement. This book presents 39 speeches that women gave during the movement during the most intense times in the 1950s and 1960s.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd- Both books take place in the south, in the 1960s. They focus on strong African-American women who fight for their rights.
The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin- Both books are set in a racially segregated Mississippi during the 1960s, they focus on how the Civil Rights Movement changed society during that time.
Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal- Both books are set in the south in the 1960s, Dollbaby focuses on a girl who finds a family in the most unexpected place, and she learns to understand the difference of races for the first time.


  1. Great job - I LOVED this book, and I also loved The Secret Life of Bees, which you mentioned as a read-a-like. One issue I considered though, is that some minority women have expressed an issue with the way the story portrays a "great white savior" narrative. I argue that Skeeter uses her privilege, that she comes to understand she has, to give the African-American women a vehicle to save themselves, but I see where the book may cause some conflicting feelings for some. For this reason, I would add some fiction that was written by African-American women. All three of your fiction suggestions are written by white women. They all sound like great books that I want to read, but I would definitely want to include the African-American female voice in a more authentic way. You did an excellent job with the non-fiction suggestions!

    1. I absolutely agree with you, and I would add that some other options for nonfiction might be welcome. Everyone focuses on either the Civil War or the southern civil rights movement, but there's much more to the African American experience. Books of art and/or photography might be welcome...

  2. I got so excited when I saw you read this, then I remembered I had suggested it :) I really hope you liked it as much as I did! Secret Life of Bees is also great.

  3. I absolutely adored The Secret Life of Bees. I have The Help on my bookshelf, and I am looking forward to reading even more now that I've read your annotation. I have seen the movie though, and I am sure the book will be ten times better because it usually is. Thanks Kate!

  4. Fantastic annotation! Great readalikes and I love the comment from Ashley Miller. Full points!

  5. I loved The Help, but I haven't read Secret Life of Bees. I am looking forward to reading it. You do a good job of talking about the appeal factors of the three women. The non-fiction titles seem like great picks.

  6. Great job, I love this book and was hoping someone would choose it. The relationships in this book are so interesting.