Kathryn Stockett Is Not My Sister and I Am Not Her Help By Duchess Harris, PhD, JD. August 12, 2011I did not attend Wednesday’s movie release of “The Help” from DreamWorks Pictures, based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett. Why, you ask? Because I read the book. Last week New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni saw an advance screening of the movie and referred to it as “…a story of female grit and solidarity — of strength through sisterhood.” He wrote, “The book’s author, Kathryn Stockett, told me that she felt that most civil rights literature had taken a male perspective, leaving ‘territory that hadn’t been covered much.’” What neither Bruni nor Stockett acknowledge is that the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it. I recently read The Help with an open mind, despite some of the criticism it has received. I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are. The novel opens on the fourth Wednesday in August 1962, at the bridge club meeting in the modest home of 23-year old, social climbing Miss Leefolt. The plot unfolds when her “friend” and the novel’s antagonist, Miss Hilly, the President of the Jackson, Mississippi Junior League, announces that she will support legislation for a “Home Help Sanitation Initiative,” a bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. ... the novel’s epilogue, “Too Little, Too Late: Kathryn Stockett, in her own words.” “My parents divorced when I was six. Demetrie became even more important then. When my mother went on one of her frequent trips[…] I’d cry and cry on Demetrie’s shoulder, missing my mother so bad I’d get a fever from it.” (p. 527) “I’m pretty sure I can say that no one in my family ever asked Demetrie what it felt like to be black in Mississippi, working for our white family. It never occurred to us to ask. It was everyday life. It wasn’t something people felt compelled to examine. I have wished, for many years, that I’d been old enough and thoughtful enough to ask Demetrie the same question. She died when I was sixteen. I’ve spent years imagining what her answer would be. And that is why I wrote this book.” (p. 530)It would have behooved Stockett to ask her burning question of another Black domestic, or at least read some memoirs on the subject, but instead she substitutes her imagination for understanding. And the result is that The Help isn’t for Black women at all, and quickly devolves into just another novel by and for white women... The rest: http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/ Duchess Harris, Ph.D., J.D., is an Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College, and an Adjunct Professor of Race and the Law at William Mitchell College of Law. She is author ofBlack Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama, and co-editor with Bruce D. Baum of Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity.