The Help by Kathryn Stockett

21st century. Freedom of speech. Equal human rights. No racism (at least it is frowned upon, anyway!).

Now, rewind a bit and enter the world of Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. A time where black maids raised up white babies, though they weren’t trusted-‘ not to steal the silver’ .

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is an extra ordinary story told by three extra ordinary women, who live in a time they are much ahead of.

The story starts by showing the two very different worlds of ‘The help’ (the colored women) and the ‘jobless, stylish, league ladies’ (the white women) co-existing together in a small town in Mississippi.

The joining link between these two worlds was one of the main protagonists- Miss Skeeter- the white, aspiring writer raised by black maids all her life.

Skeeter always wanted to write something that people really needed to read about. So, in a time where even speaking to a black person was shunned upon, she decided to team up with two black women (Aibileen and Minny) and write about the point of view of ‘the help’.

In this dark, hard hitting tale of the past, Stockett re-explores history with three strong women.

Women, who dared to break the unfair, unspoken rules in search of a truth, they had been questioning their entire lives.

Women who risked their lives to speak out against injustice.

Women who showed us what courage is, and the impact it can have and finally, women who taught us the power of unity and friendship.

Through The Help, Stockett not only changed the lives the people in the book but also those of its readers as it forces one to think about the ignorance we practice on the help around us even today. It forces us to realize that the evil of ‘slavery’ still exists and that it is finally time for us to start changing that.

This deeply moving novel teaches us to ultimately respect everyone and anyone around us irrespective of their class, caste, gender or color.  So it’s a must read for both racists and anti-racists out there, so they can either feel the shame or the pride they deserve.

Aamar Jiban (An Autobiography) By Rassundari Devi

Aamar Jiban, published in 1876, is an autobiography by Rassundari Devi. It is the first autobiography written by an Indian woman and also the first written by any Bengali male or female. It tells us about the status of women in the 19th century Indian society. It was the first full length autobiography published in the Bengali language.

Nineteen century education viewed a traumatic  experience as it uprooted a child from security of her own home and exiled her forever to mercy and control of other strangers.

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The title in itself mentions all about a woman, Rassundari Devi, that depicts her pain, struggle, determination, hope and success that she has faced in terms of education.

Her life story focuses on issues such as child marriage, caste, education, superstition and discrimination because her writing and her life stood in a peculiarly significant relationship to each other. This was so because she being fourteen was unwillingly thrown into the marriage ritual for which she was not developed both physically and mentally as it was a superstition that if a woman reads and writes, then she is destined to be a widow. It felt to me as if a meek and submissive woman has committed a crime by bringing up the idea of education and also as if she was going against the grain of familial and social expectations. Moreover, in my opinion, a kind of paradox is set in the society that women’s job is to maintain the unending flow of domestic chores of cooking and child rearing. Therefore, it can be said that she in a way has proclaimed her predicament to the whole world through print and by reserving the image of a self-effacing wife who suffers her deprivations with smiling forbearance.

Rassundari Devi had an irrepressible urge to read but was forbidden from the path of education because she was a woman thus highlighting the idea of inequality. But, she holds a strong position in terms of education by the talent of her writing skills thus creating equality in the society by becoming an inspiration for many other women. Thus, it can be concluded by the very famous quote that a feminist author Virginia Wolf has said “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write a fiction.” And lastly, it also states the concept of Bildungsroman as she from a lower stature has successfully developed herself into a published writer.

A must read as it gives a deep insight on the life of Indian women in the nineteenth century India.