Friday, March 4, 2011

African-American woman sues Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help

It seems like everyone is reading or has read The Help these days. I read it last year and although I enjoyed it, I could understand why African-Americans gave it mixed reviews. My assessment was: great idea, awkward follow-through and lack of awareness of white privilege.

My book group has selected this book for April, so I'm anxious to hear what others think about the of the members is married to an African-American man, and another comes from the south.

So I was fascinated to discover that Ablene Cooper, nanny for author Kathryn Stockett's brother, has filed a lawsuit against Stockett. She is offended by the portrayal of domestic help in the book and believes that she is the inspiration for the main character, Aibileen Clark. Her employers (Kathryn Stockett's brother and wife) agree.

Besides the similarity of their names, Ablene has a gold tooth and lost her son, just like the fictional Aibileen. It's interesting to note that not only has the book sparked a feud between brother and sister, but Stockett's father seems to think his daughter is only out to make money.

According to the ABC News article, "he also noted that his author daughter, who has moved north to Atlanta, 'is also a New Yorker now.' Stockett, a retired developer and lawyer, said he did not know her phone number. 'Sure, I liked the book. It's fiction. They didn't give me the critics' copy until it was too late,' he said. 'I would have got some factual things changed. But I'm low down the totem pole.' He charged media with 'stirring up the pot' in the dispute between his son's maid and his daughter, adding that the ensuing publicity surrounding the feud would benefit his daughter financially. 'Kathryn will appreciate that she gets a cut,' he said."

Sort of sounds like Stockett's own words in The Help, "Another white lady trying to make a dollar off of colored people."

Have you read The Help? Do you think Stockett overstepped her white privilege?


  1. Although I enjoyed The Help, it was a fairytale book of sorts. I find it odd that she used such similarities to her brother's nanny in her book without thinking about potential consequences. It seems her father has another whole set of issues with his daughter not necessarily related to the character similarities.

    I'm very curious to hear about what your book group thinks about it. My book group read it and enjoyed it, but did take issue with it to a certain degree, mostly that it was such a "neat" book.

  2. I will definitely let you know, Lizzie!