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The Help

Cover of The Help

The Help

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The #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film.

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town...
From the Trade Paperback edition.

The #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film.

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town...
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
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Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    109
  • Library copies:
    121
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    4.4
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    3

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Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book Two days later, I sit in my parent's kitchen, waiting for dusk to fall. Igive in and light another cigarette even though last night the surgeongeneral came on the television set and shook his finger at everybody,trying to convince us that smoking will kill us. But Mother once toldme tongue kissing would turn me blind and I'm starting to think it'sall just a big plot between the surgeon general and Mother to make sureno one ever has any fun.

    At eight o'clock that same night, I'mstumbling down Aibileen's street as discreetly as one can carrying afifty-pound Corona typewriter. I knock softly, already dying foranother cigarette to calm my nerves. Aibileen answers and I slipinside. She's wearing the same green dress and stiff black shoes aslast time.

    I try to smile, like I'm confident it will workthis time, despite the idea she explained over the phone. "Could we...;sit in the kitchen this time?" I ask. "Would you mind?"

    "Alright. Ain't nothing to look at, but come on back."

    The kitchen is about half the size of the living room and warmer. It smellslike tea and lemons. The black-and-white linoleum floor has beenscrubbed thin. There's just enough counter for the china tea set. I setthe typewriter on a scratched red table under the window. Aibileenstarts to pour the hot water into the teapot.

    "Oh, nonefor me, thanks," I say and reach in my bag. "I brought us some Co-Colasif you want one." I've tried to come up with ways to make Aibileen morecomfortable. Number One: Don't make Aibileen feel like she has to serveme.

    "Well, ain't that nice. I usually don't take my tea tilllater anyway." She brings over an opener and two glasses. I drink minestraight from the bottle and seeing this, she pushes the glasses aside,does the same.

    I called Aibileen after Elizabeth gave me thenote, and listened hopefully as Aibileen told me her idea—for her towrite her own words down and then show me what she's written. I triedto act excited. But I know I'll have to rewrite everything she'swritten, wasting even more time. I thought it might make it easier ifshe could see it in type-face instead of me reading it and telling herit can't work this way.

    We smile at each other. I take a sip of my Coke, smooth my blouse. "So...;" I say.

    Aibileen has a wire-ringed notebook in front of her. "Want me to...;just go head and read?"

    "Sure," I say.

    We both take deep breaths and she begins reading in a slow, steady voice.

    "Myfirst white baby to ever look after was named Alton Carrington Speers.It was 1924 and I'd just turned fifteen years old. Alton was a long,skinny baby with hair fine as silk on a corn...;"

    I begin typing as she reads, her words rhythmic, pronounced more clearly thanher usual talk. "Every window in that filthy house was painted shut onthe inside, even though the house was big with a wide green lawn. Iknew the air was bad, felt sick myself...;"

    "Hang on," I say. I've typed wide greem. I blow on the typing fluid, retype it. "Okay, go ahead."

    "When the mama died, six months later," she reads, "of the lung disease, theykept me on to raise Alton until they moved away to Memphis. I lovedthat baby and he loved me and that's when I knew I was good at makingchildren feel proud of themselves...;"

    I hadn't wanted toinsult Aibileen when she told me her idea. I tried to urge her out ofit, over the phone. "Writing isn't that easy. And you wouldn't havetime for this anyway, Aibileen, not with a full-time job."

    "Can't be much different than writing my...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 1, 2008
    What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing “about what disturbs you.” The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies—and mistrusts—enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 2, 2009
    Four peerless actors render an array of sharply defined black and white characters in the nascent years of the civil rights movement. They each handle a variety of Southern accents with aplomb and draw out the daily humiliation and pain the maids are subject to, as well as their abiding affection for their white charges. The actors handle the narration and dialogue so well that no character is ever stereotyped, the humor is always delightful, and the listener is led through the multilayered stories of maids and mistresses. The novel is a superb intertwining of personal and political history in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, but this reading gives it a deeper and fuller power. A Putnam hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 1
    ).

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2009
    The relationships between white middle-class women and their black maids in Jackson, Miss., circa 1962, reflect larger issues of racial upheaval in Mississippi-native Stockett's ambitious first novel.
    Still unmarried, to her mother's dismay, recent Ole Miss graduate Skeeter returns to Jackson longing to be a serious writer. While playing bridge with her friends Hilly and Elizabeth, she asks Elizabeth's seemingly docile maid Aibileen for housekeeping advice to fill the column she's been hired to pen for a local paper. The two women begin what Skeeter considers a semi-friendship, but Aibileen, mourning her son's recent death and devoted to Elizabeth's neglected young daughter, is careful what she shares. Aibileen's good friend Minnie, who works for Hilly's increasingly senile mother, is less adept at playing the subservient game than Aibileen. When Hilly, an aggressively racist social climber, fires and then blackballs her for speaking too freely, Minnie's audacious act of vengeance almost destroys her livelihood. Unlike oblivious Elizabeth and vicious Hilly, Skeeter is at the verge of enlightenment. Encouraged by a New York editor, she decides to write a book about the experience of black maids and enlists Aibileen's help. For Skeeter the book is primarily a chance to prove herself as a writer. The stakes are much higher for the black women who put their lives on the line by telling their true stories. Although the expos is published anonymously, the town's social fabric is permanently torn. Stockett uses telling details to capture the era and does not shy from showing Skeeter's dangerous naivete. Skeeter's narration is alive with complexity - her loyalty to her traditional Southern mother remains even after she learns why the beloved black maid who raised her has disappeared. In contrast, Stockett never truly gets inside Aibileen and Minnie's heads (a risk the author acknowledges in her postscript). The scenes written in their voices verge on patronizing.
    This genuine page-turner offers a whiff of white liberal self-congratulation that won't hurt its appeal and probably spells big success.

    (COPYRIGHT (2009) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from January 15, 2009
    Set in Stockett's native Jackson, MS, in the early 1960s, this first novel adopts the complicated theme of blacks and whites living in a segregated South. A century after the Emancipation Proclamation, black maids raised white children and ran households but were paid poorly, often had to use separate toilets from the family, and watched the children they cared for commit bigotry. In Stockett's narrative, Miss Skeeter, a young white woman, is a naive, aspiring writer who wants to create a series of interviews with local black maids. Even if they're published anonymously, the risk is great; still, Aibileen and Minny agree to participate. Tension pervades the novel as its events are told by these three memorable women. Is this an easy book to read? No, but it is surely worth reading. It may even stir things up as readers in Jackson and beyond question their own discrimination and intolerance in the past and present. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ" 10/1/08.]Rebecca Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

    Copyright 2009 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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