For several days, I’ve kept a tab open in my browser pointing to a column by Joanna Weiss, because I’ve been toying with posting about The Help, despite not seeing the movie and, indeed, have no desire to see it.
I first heard of the book from a “Readers’ Review” episode of the Diane Rehm Show. The show was at times enthralling and affecting, not so much from the discussion of the book itself, but from the phone calls: it evoked the listener callers, many raised in the South during the time in which the book was set, to tell engrossing and sometimes disturbing stories from their own pasts.
What has struck me is the reaction of black bloggers and writers whom I respect to the movie: it has ranged from ambivalent, illustrated by this from Leonard Pitts, Jr., to derivisive, as these from Chancey de Vega and Field. (I commend de Vega’s, in particular, to your attention.)
So I shall content myself with quoting Alberta Brooks, whose memories of working as “a help” are discussed today in the Chicago Trib. Here’s a snippet:
My sister worked as an aide at the black high school in Gary (Indiana–ed.), helping out in the classroom and in the cafeteria. But by me being so young with only a high school education, there were only certain jobs I could get. So when we saw an ad for a maid in the newspaper, we got on the bus and went over there.
We knocked on the front door and when the lady answered, she directed us to go around to the back door.
On the farm in Arkansas, we had always entered the white people’s house through the front door. I guess it was because we lived on their property and they had known us all their lives. In fact, one of their young daughters gave me my name when I was born. She named me after herself, Alberta.
Now that I was up North, I never expected that white people would send you to the back. Nevertheless, I did what I was told because I had no other choice.
They were evil times.
And some would bring them back.