You need to refrain from giving an expert opinion on what you think you know about growing up in 1960's Mississippi !!!!!
Recently I wrote a blog post about how people are so quick to form judgements against people saying and doing things these judgemental people don't agree with.In that post, I also touched on jealousy amongst authors. This morning I read a scathing article criticizing author Kathryn Stockett's blockbuster novel "The Help". Everyone who reads this blog knows that I LOVED this book. In fact, when I reached the end of it, I sat and bawled my eyes out for at least an hour.
The reason I bawled was....it hit my heart like a hammer! I was born in Mississippi in 1952. In 1964 when the Civil Rights Freedom Movement formed here I was a 12 year old very impressionable girl. My state, my town, became a hotbed of racial turmoil. There were protest in the downtown streets, riots, bombings, murders. Hattiesburg was a very small town at that time, full of racial hatred and bigotry. What went on here was not something you can or will ever forget.
In Kathryn's book, we don't hear much about the public turmoil that took place here in the 1960's. What we do read about is the turmoil that took place inside the mind of a young white girl trying to find the gray area between black and white where LOVE knows no race boundary.
When it comes to racial turmoil, Mississippi has NO EQUAL! Alabama runs a close second but it's Mississippi who hangs her head in shame for her unspeakable atrocities!
Kathryn came as close as any white author will ever get to capturing that shame in the written word. I left Mississippi in 1974 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. I wanted to raise my children somewhere less prejudiced. I spent the next 30 years in Tennessee but visited Mississippi often as most of my family lived here. Was it different in Nashville? It was still the south but yes, it was different. In fact, my middle son Marty played on an all black baseball team in 1982 when he was 10 years old. The coach, Marty, me and my other 2 children were the only whites on our sideline. We had a wonderful summer! This could NEVER have happened in 1982 Mississippi! There would have been a cross burning in my front yard!
Back to The Help....my maternal grandparents here in Mississippi employed a black maid during my childhood. Her name was Ruby. Of course back then...god forbid, she was addressed as none other than N----r Ruby. I cannot tell you how many times in my adulthood I have racked my brain trying to recall having called my beloved Ruby by this horrible name. I can honestly say; " I don't know" but I cringe that I probably in my childhood ignorance did. My sister Brenda and I discuss this and we are so hurt that we didn't know any better. We grieve that we never got to express our love or our ignorance to Ruby in person. Ruby adored us as did we her, Ruby Hurst was my " Abilene". One of my favorite parts of the book and movie is when Abilene tells Mae Mobley; " you is kind, you is smart, you is important".
I started trying to find Ruby around 2000 when I got my first computer. My grandmother had passed in 1980 and my mother did not remember Ruby's last name. Finally, in 2003 shortly before I moved back to Hattiesburg, my aunt remembered that it was Hurst. I went to work.
A researcher at the Hattiesburg Public Library e-mailed her obituary, she had died in 2002. I was devastated! Kathryn Stockett had the same experience with the black woman in her life. It's the reason she wrote The Help.
So this is why I say to all the critics.....some who have yet to even read the book or see the movie, unless YOU were raised in this turmoil in 1960's Mississippi, unless you were raised in part by your own Abilene and never got the chance to say; I loved you and appreciate the love you gave me back, you have know right to critic an experience you've never had. What you do have a right to say is this; I did not like this book, I did not like this movie.
I have been an avid reader since I learned to read. I've read thousands of books! I read lots of different genres. I am a good judge of well written books. I've read bad books, good books, great books and excellent books. I was one of the first to read The Help thanks to an ARC. I told Kathryn this would be a #1 blockbuster! She didn't believe me!
Now to the particular critic named Duchess Harris............
You are correct in 2 things, YOU are not her sister, You are not her help.
I do not care that you are black, that you are an award winning Civil Rights Expert, a Feminist Activist and author, You are not an expert on 1960's Mississippi!
You were raised in Connecticut. Your father was a Traffic Controller. You went to a Northern Ivy League school. You have NO IDEA WHATSOEVER what it was like to live in 1960's Mississippi from a black or white perspective.
What YOU ARE is a judgemental and jealous woman. You are jealous that a young white woman from Mississippi took her own expert experience and turned it into a fictional novel that made her rich and famous! Get over it!
I'm sure that Kathryn is unfazed by this critics opinion of her book, she's too busy to worry about it but it just infuriates me! LAWDY B ! If you read something and you don't like it, don't say anything! I never talk about the bad books I've read. The author spent their time and put their heart into it. Who am I to use my opinion to break their heart? If you can't say something good, don't say anything at all!!
After my daughter and I left the movie which we loved, I said to her; Now do you understand why I wanted to raise my children away from here and WHY I never allowed the N word to be used" ?