Book review: The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

★★★★★

The Help is a powerful victory celebration for the human race. Once in a while, a story comes along that transcends entertainment and hits us between the eyes. Watch the movie. Read the book. Watch the movie again.

This touching story about bridging the difference between white Mississippi homeowners and black maids in the 60’s will leave you laughing through your tears. Conflict grows over separate bathrooms, separate eating places, distrust, and legal inequity. It is only because we, as a nation, as a human race, have taken great steps toward conquering racism that we can look back together on the 60’s and smile at its heroes.

“God don’t pay no mind to color,” claims Aibileen, one of the “help” who raises a string of seventeen white children belonging to mothers too busy or uninterested to bother. These black maids, and the one white woman with enough fire to bridge the gap, are the heroes of the story. Stockett’s runaway bestseller overcame more than 60 rejections from literary agents and numerous sneers from critics wondering how a white author dare try to get inside the heads of black people who had long been considered property.

Please forgive my religious commentary over the remainder of the review. Racism has not been an easy monster to eradicate, and we still have obstacles to overcome. But we’re working on them, and are right to celebrate our progress. Sexual inequality has been another hurdle. Religious intolerance still occasionally rears its ugly head. But there is one area where the struggle against prejudice remains most fierce, and in this arena, our favorite religion (Christianity) has been far more of a hindrance than a help. This disturbing Biblical passage highlights the obstacle we must somehow overcome:

Romans 1:26-27, Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

“Due penalty” for their “perversion?” Sigh. We’ve come so far in some areas. Can we achieve the same level of victory in the arena of Gay Rights? Can we overcome the teachings of our holy books and leave behind our prejudices over differences in sexual preference? This would mean either recognizing that the Bible is imperfect, or rejecting the obvious translation in favor of a more humanitarian understanding. Frankly, I don’t care which we choose as Christians … as long as we choose one or the other. Let’s not let our Bible make us any less Christian.

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