The Help

I knew I would be traveling several times in the next few months, so I went to Target in search of a good book to read on the plane.  I wanted something I could relish, not something instructional like the scholarly articles I also planned to read on the plane.  Some books are like a great television series to me; I like to get involved in a fictional world that is cathartic but not too serious.  On the other hand, as an English professor, other people frequently judge me by what I read, so I needed to make a careful choice.

At the store, I picked up a copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  My sister told me it was a good book, and the reading teacher whose office is across the hall from me had it on her desk several months ago.  I looked through the book and realized it was almost 500 pages, so I would probably not finish it on the first leg of my trip.  (This is a problem I sometimes have.)  The cover propaganda compared the book to Kill a Mockingbird which is a fairly strong endorsement.  When I laid the book on the checkout counter, the girl ahead of me in line could not stop herself from squealing and then telling me The Help was her favorite book ever.

I had a similar experience when I presented my ticket to the gate agent on my return trip.  “I just loved that book,” she said.  Something about The Help makes readers want to talk about it, just like they might talk about The Office or Survivor.  For those of you who have not read the book, it is set in the early 1960s in Mississippi.  A young white woman gets a group of maids who are black to tell her what their work lives are like.  Along the way, the young white woman realizes her perspective is skewed.

The book has made me think differently about my interactions with others.  Today I went to Walmart, and I got in the checkout line where my favorite checker was working.  I love the way she almost sings when she scans the groceries.  I have sometimes waited extra long to be in her line instead of going through someone else’s shorter line.  Today, though, I wondered what our exchange might be like from her perspective.  Did I keep her from taking a break?  Do I come across as rude or lazy?  Is it annoying when I bring fruits and vegetables to the counter  that are not labeled or familiar?  Every exchange has two sides, and thanks to The Help, I am paying more attention.


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Posted by admin on Oct 19 2011. Filed under Beth Gulley. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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