In 2009, I was too busy avoiding reading Faulkner and Hawthorne to be paying attention to The Help. In 2020, I was not busy enough and ended up reading this solid novel.
The book is about a group of African-American maids in Jim Crow era Mississippi attempting to write a book themselves on what it was like to be maids. At points, I wondered if the book would go meta and have the second half of the book just be the book from the book. At other points, I wondered if the main plot was based on true events, since the author interleaved in JFK’s and Medgar Ever’s assassinations. I feel like this is part of the reason I never sought out historical fiction: can never distinguish fact from fiction.
Otherwise, with the current social situation, the obvious themes of racism and ignorance still remains fresh to this day, and unfortunately will probably be pertinent for the foreseeable future. The emphasis of the power dynamics between the maids and their employers resonated with me; the fact that small acts of rebellion can result in the help’s whole family being unemployed and possibly thrown in jail was not something I understood before.
Ultimately, it was a pretty darn good read, especially in the summer. There’s a certain schadenfreude when reading about characters suffering through a heat wave while I was also.