You is kind, you is smart, you is important

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

A couple of weeks back I read Kathryn Stockett’s massively successful novel The Help and thought it was one of the most fantastic books I’ve ever read – shocking, heart-breaking, heart-warming in parts and also so distressing and frustrating in parts that it made me bubble up with fury at people’s ignorance and cruelty. The knowledge that while we’ve advanced so far, and yet not at all, in the decades since the book was set, doesn’t make for comfortable reading.

The book tells the opposite side of Gone With The Wind, and is touching, yet utterly disgraceful – it’s been a while since anything brought so many emotions out in me.

The accounts of brutality against black people made me wince with horror, as much as the disgusting disregard these unpleasant, stupid women had for their own children. Rather than being grateful that those children had a loving, caring mother figure while they minced about playing bridge, they ostracised and intimidated the very women they owed the most to. The parts of the book where Aibileen repeatedly tells the small girl in her care Mae Mobley ‘You is kind, you is smart, you is important,’ so that the child grew up knowing that, despite her mother’s lack of attention, were so touching … The novel has that rare power to make you sit back and think about the state of the world, human behaviour and what it would take to bring harmony.

A week later I went to see the movie and for once, absolutely loved itv – it was every bit as powerful as the book, and while it left out some of the more brutal elements of the novel, it brought home the vile, oppressive environment that these women, who genuinely loved the children in their care, had to endure.

Emma Stone was wonderful as the privileged white woman who wanted to reveal the truth, Skeeter, while the brave cast of actresses who portrayed the heartless, ignorant bitches played their parts equally well – particularly Bryce Dallas Howard who bravely took on the part of the utterly despicable Miss Hilly. However, it was the performances from Viola Davis as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minnie that stood out, bringing home the dreadful reality of their existence working for rich mistresses and earning no thanks, respect or even minimum wage.

Apparently, Stockett’s daring debut novel was rejected by 60 agents before Susan Ramer agreed to represent her. Thank God she did.


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