8 Responses to July

  1. Enjoying this one mightily.  So glad it’s our pick!

  2. Okay, guys, I’m now halfway through and can’t wait until we can talk about this one.  I’m pretty sure a lot of you have already read “The Help,” so if you might be looking for anything else that covers that period and/or segregation, here are a few: “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson (won the Pulitzer Prize); “Carry Me Home” by Diane McWhorter; and “Making Whiteness, The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890-1940” by Grace Elizabeth Hale. Interesting that all three books and the one we’re reading now were written by women.

  3. Kristi Ingram says:

    On my copy of “The Help” was a quote from NPR.org, “This could be one of the most important pieces of fiction since “To Kill a Mockingbird…”  so, I started with that.   Interesting in that “Mockingbird” was published a year prior to the timeframe of “The Help” and took place 25 years earlier.  After only two chapters into “The Help” my first reaction was, “wow, how slow the change.”   Also, through my own frame of reference, my mom grew up in Oklahoma City in the 30’s and 40’s.  Her mother was from Alabama and her father was from OK. They were allowed to play with the children of the black handyman who did odd jobs in the neighborhood, but not allowed to play with the Catholic childen down the street. 

    • Ohmygosh, Kristi, your mom would not have been allowed to play with me.  Drats! And again, I recommend “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which, upon reading it, brought back a memory from working at Clayton Books. I was talking with a customer about growing up and racism and sort of about who we could play with and how aware, or not, we were of racism. She was Black and spoke of being raised by her grandparents in a rural Black community in the south. She never had a lot of interaction with whites, but what got my interest was why she was raised by her grandparents. The woman grew up in the 60s and 70s. She told me that her parents went north to find better paying jobs and sent money back to the family and would return for visits. What she didn’t say, and I never connected until reading “The Warmth of Other Suns,” was that her parents left because of the Jim Crow mentality still hanging on in the south (as well as just about everywhere else).

      Boy, should there be some great discussions regarding this book.  Thanks for checking in with a comment.  Wish more people would do the same. 

  4. Yvette Green says:

     I enjoyed the read.  It was quick and easy and entertaining.  I was rooting for the team all the way throughout.  I didn’t like Hilly and couldn’t understood how an entire group of women could blindly follow her.  This was a tad unbelievable and contrived for me.  I felt really crushed that Skeeter was able to escape the madness of her home and Aibleen and Minny (and the other black women) did not have that same luxury.  I did not like that Skeeter’s involvement in the text thrust her into the career of her choosing, whereas Aibleen and Minny suffered after the text’s publication.

    I became more critical of the text when I really thought about the blurb on the cover by NPR that Kristi referred to.  Why is all of NPR appearing to applaud this book? What about Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Octavia Butler’s Kindred, James Baldwin and all the texts by Black
    writers that deal with civil rights and/or slavery?  How do we leave out a whole history of black authors writing about race to only focus on two white women as writers of the most important literature.    It’s a good story by a white
    author about black women, race issues and civil rights.  However, I take issue with it being called great literarture. 

     Are these texts The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird so great because they are so accessible?   Why is the bar so low
    in terms of classifying something as important?  Why is the source
    attribution so vague?  Why not attribute this phrase (Most important book) to a specific speaker (Karen Grigsby Bates)?  Of course NPR is loaded with ethos and the
    vagueness of the quote attribution leaves room for intrepertation that all of  NPR supports this claim and thus helps sells books.  I just wonder if white women writing about black women/people/Civil Rights  is much easier on the mainstream American palate than black authors writing about these issues in more complex, nuanced and convincing ways.

  5. Yvette Green says:

    I enjoyed The Help.  It was quick and easy and entertaining.  I was
    rooting for the team all the way throughout.  I didn’t like Hilly and
    couldn’t understand how an entire group of women could blindly follow
    her.  This was a tad unbelievable and contrived for me.  I felt really
    crushed that Skeeter was able to escape the madness of her home and
    Aibileen and Minny (and the other black women) did not have that same
    luxury.  I did not like that Skeeter’s involvement in the text thrust
    her into the career of her choosing, whereas Aibileen and Minny suffered
    after the text’s publication.

    I became more critical of the text
    when I really thought about the blurb on the cover by NPR that Kristi
    referred to.  Why is all of NPR appearing to applaud this book? What
    about Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Octavia Butler’s Kindred, James
    Baldwin and all the texts by Black
    writers that deal with civil
    rights and/or slavery?  How do we leave out a whole history of black
    authors writing about race to only focus on two white women as writers
    of the most important literature.    It’s a good story by a white
    author about black women, race issues and civil rights.  However, I take issue with it being called great literature. 

     Are these texts The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird so great because they are so accessible?   Why is the bar so low in terms of classifying something as important?  Why is the source attribution
    so vague?  Why not attribute this phrase (most important book since TKAM) to a
    specific speaker (Karen Grigsby Bates)?  Of course NPR is loaded with
    ethos and the  vagueness of the quote attribution leaves room for
    intrepertation that all of  NPR supports this claim and thus helps
    sells books.  I just wonder if white women writing about black
    women/people/Civil Rights  is much easier on the mainstream American
    palate than black authors writing about these issues in more complex,
    nuanced and convincing ways.

    (I apologize for not proofreading more carefully with my original post, I hope it can be deleted).
    A Like
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  6. Kristi Ingram says:

    I really enjoyed this book – a very impressive first novel.  I think the author was very wise to choose the character points of view the way she did (except for The Benefit which speaks for itself), and develop as many characters, too. 

    Yvette made some great points.  In my copy of the book, the vague praise coming from publications aren’t credited to a particular reviewer whereas prizewinning or best-selling authors are named, so sure, the phrase is meant to sell books. 

    I think Lou Anne is an example of a woman who participates in Two-Slice Hilly’s clubs, but stops short of following Hilly’s every direction.  But isn’t Hilly’s Junior League mentality similar to the jury in “To Kill A Mockingbird?”

    Back at the beginning of the year we  read an award-winning black author on being black in the Hamptons in the 80’s.  I didn’t have it mind until I read the conversation between Aibileen and Minny about boundaries.   Even in Sag Harbor, above the Mason-Dixon line in the 1980’s, the Rock was the physical boundary between Sag Harbor and the rest of the white Hamptons.  And, Benjy’s family always carried their watermelons hidden in shopping bags because carrying a watermelon around was “too black.”   This book didn’t make near the splash as “The Help” or “To Kill A Mockingbird.”   Mainstream palate?  Marketing? 

    • Oh, Kristi, love your insight. “Sag Harbor” asks a bit more from the reader than “The Help.” The effects of segregation are very subtle and that is excactly what Whitehead was going after, or at least one of the things. I’m not sure of how to bring that issue up at our meetings, but “Sag Harbor” took more deep reading and as we get better and better at seeing some of the things in certain novels, we will get more out of it.

      And Yvette, check out my review of “The Help,” which should be posted in a few days.  Thanks for checking in with us and adding your own site’s post. Great fun to hear from others.

      I’ll bring a copy of “Warmth of Other Suns” to our July meeting. It’s narrative history and  about Jim Crow all over the U.S., not just the south. The author won the Pulitzer for it and after reading “The Help,” I hope more of you will check out this one, as well.  See you Monday.

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