By Ralph Hipp
Writing this story began for Kathryn Stockett in late 2001, and after nearly 50 rejection letters, final publication of "The Help" has turned this story of Mississippi maids during the turbulent sixties into America's hottest read of the year. It's going into its 2nd year on the New York Times best-seller list. (This week, it's #2 behind James Patterson's "Worst Case.")
"The Help" is a fictional account of the life of Dimitri, the maid that took care of members of Stockett's family for years. (Dimitri died when Kathryn was 16.) While Kathryn never actually sat down with Dimitri and a tape recorder to have this remarkable woman detail her life story, Stockett's characters in her story include Skeeter, a recent grad of Ole Miss University. Skeeter hoped to bond with their beloved maid, Constantine, but she's vanished.. no one will tell her where the woman has gone.
Aibileen takes on the role of the major "black maid" in the novel, a woman caring for the 17th white child of the family who hired her. She works hard to ease the pain of the death of her own son.
Then there's Minny, fat and sassy, and one hell of a cook. And these women's lives come together in a story that is drawing lots of fans. I'm about to start reading "The Help," and wondered if you have started it, too. (You can see more in Katie Couric's one-hour website interview with Kathryn Stockett, on cbsnews.com.) Katie drew some fire in her blog comments by only including white book discussion groups in her interview. Stockett has been summarily criticized for having her black characters talk in exaggerated stereotyped dialects instead of having each of them speak in their own voice. I'd love to read your blog comments right here about "The Help," and if you would recommend it to other wibw.com fans! Ralph