The Help

I used to believe in 'em. I don't anymore. They in our heads. Lines between black and white ain't there neither. Some folks just made those up, long time ago. And that go for the white trash and the so-ciety ladies too. A couple years ago, I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time. Outside of her sweet-talcum dripping from the cheeks of the local women because of the heat, there wasn't much I enjoyed about the book. I know. I know. This books is like an American classic and I trudged my way through it. The whole time, I tried to like Scout. I tried to connect with Atticus' pursuit of justice. I enjoyed the theme - the idea behind the book. I didn't enjoy the book. And for this southern girl, that was one of the saddest realizations I'd come across in a long time.

I shied away from most books claiming the southern attachment after reading Lee's one hit wonder. When I saw The Help appear on bookshelves, I admit curiosity caused me to pick it up more than a few times. But, given my promise to not buy another book until I tackle the impossible pile of unread books in my room, I'd always place it back with the shiny new covers.

And then my department head let me borrow the book. I read it in a day, guys. Cover to cover - and this is the first book in a long time where once I finished the last page I felt a sense of loss because the characters would no longer be a part of my life. But most importantly, the characters within this book inspired me with the risks they took.

At the core, this book rests in social justice - particularly civil rights. Some of the scenes are relentlessly uncomfortable - simply because of the truth oozing from the pages. As Americans, we are quick to point the finger to the injustices of the world, but always hesitate when it means turning the finger to point at our own culture. We don't like remembering the inequality. We don't like admitting there are still places in the country where people do not feel welcome.

After reading the story of Skeeter and her goal of bringing to light some of the injustices - however ugly - of her hometown, I suddenly gained courage to pursue my manuscript. Human trafficking, sex slavery - these phrases are quickly becoming buzz words in our culture - but ultimately, we attach them to countries like Thailand or Cambodia. Very rarely do we stop long enough to realize trafficking of people - of minors - of men and women and boys and girls - happens within our own neighborhood.

Henry David Thoreau once said, "A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting" - The Help is one of the few books I can honestly say pushed me to live on its hint of justice and storytelling.

Go. Get this book. Read it - I promise you won't be disappointed.

Has there been a novel that inspired you to "go and live on its hint"?

Posted on June 7, 2010 and filed under books.