Why I Picked It Up:
I chose to read The Help by Kathryn Stockett to complete a task in The Seasonal Reading Challenge that asked participants to read a book that had won the Indies Choice Book Award and watch a movie that had won (or was nominated for) an Independent Spirit Award. My face-to-face book club also picked this book as it's June book. We had a wonderful discussion about it.
From the Publisher:
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger.
Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women — mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another.
A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.
I loved this book. I liked the characters (Minny was my favorite), I enjoyed the writing, and I found the issues and setting to be very authentic. I would highly recommend this book to book clubs. Lots to discuss. This is one of the best books I've read so far this year.
For the film part of this task, I couldn't make up my mind so I watched Hairspray which was a 1988 nominee for best picture and Food, Inc. which was a 2010 nominee for best documentary. The racial discrimination themes in Hairspray mirrored the themes in the book nicely and it was just fun and uplifting to watch. I had seen the Broadway play of Hairspray, but I'd never watched the movie. Food, Inc., on the other hand, was neither fun nor uplifting (not that I expected it to be) since it's about how our food supply has gotten more and more processed and industrialized. Both Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) were involved with the film. If you're at all familar with either of their books, you probably have a pretty good idea as to what to expect out of the movie. Disturbing, really.