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.

Beloved- Toni Morrison

                                “A magnificent achievement… An American masterpiece”                                                                                                   – A.S, Byatt, “Guardian”

belovedFirst of all, do not confuse yourselves in contemplating this novel to be a romantic fiction, portraying a lover and his “beloved”. No! Not at all. In fact, this intriguing fiction by Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison is about the barbarous history of slavery of ‘Black People’, back in the time during the 18th Century.

The cruel treatments of Black folks by White people, Slave trade laws, racial discrimination and the haunting re-memory of the past are the main themes of this fiction. Rather than, giving us the account of “slavery and it’s repercussions” in a very monotonous manner, Morrison takes up the very genuine story of a black slave woman, naming, Margaret Garner, who actually killed her own small child, to keep it free from the prevailing brutal slavery and it’s aftermath. Morrison includes supernatural interventions to fabricate this authentic story and makes into a  very poignant as well as the very marker of the history of Afro-American.

The fiction moves around an ex-slave Sethe, a black woman, who escaped from her earlier slave home, named Sweet Home in Kentucky, with her 3 children and 1 new born-baby, who took birth during her escapade and now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. After 18 years from that escapade, those haunting memories of slavery still haunts the present of Sethe and her daughter Denver. Apart from loosing so many significant persons in her life, she also lives with the pain of the loss of her two year old baby, Beloved.That escapade really cost a huge amount from Sethe, she is right now, living with her 4th no. daughter, Denver in a house that is haunted by the ghost of the baby (Beloved), she killed, in order to save her from slavery.

Now, after all these years of living with Beloved’s ghost, both Sethe’s and Denver’s almost stable life shudders with happiness and nostalgia, when Beloved’s ghost appears in the form of a full-bloodied woman.

Thus, what is the purpose of this ghost appearing after 18 years of her killing has to do with Sethe and Denver’s lives, is what all we see in this fiction. Not only the haunting by the ghost, but also the ‘shocking & shaking’ truths about slavery and the experience of that homicidal past through a woman’s eyes, is what makes this novel a “Pulitzer Prize” winner.

A must read novel to experience the ghostly truth of slavery in America!!

Also made into a film, starring Oprah Winfrey- do watch it (The following is a teaser)