Earlier today, I mentioned that when considering the idea of ‘authenticity’ – I immediately thought of the controversy regarding Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. I read this novel last year and thought that Stockett did a nice job in re-creating an ‘authentic’ African American dialect (despite the fact that she, herself, is white); however, after our discussion in class this morning – I reconsidered the idea of authentic.
I’m not saying that Stockett didn’t present the material in a way that was understandable and true to the time period, but, I liked what Professor Jani had to say – “You have to ask the right kind of questions: What defines accuracy? How does the representation work and what does it ultimately aim to do?”
If we were to apply this thought process when considering Stockett’s The Help, I think it’d be safe to say that she gave an adequate representation. I found a statement from Stockett when asked about the culture of this time:
“Well, I can only talk about my experience. I grew up in the 1970s, but I don’t think a whole lot had changed from the ’60s. Oh, it had changed in the law books — but not in the kitchens of white homes. As children, we looked up to our maids and our nannies, who were playing in some ways the role of our mothers. They were paid to be nice to us, to look after us, teach us things and take time out of their day to be with us. As a child you think of these people as an extension of your mother.
For the adults employing them, the relationship is different. You hire someone to clean your house and do your laundry. But in many cases, these women worked for the same white family for generation after generation. That, to me, is the difference between an employee and someone you feel close to. They’re an important cog in the wheel of your family. Some readers tell me, “We always treated our maid like she was a member of the family.” You know, that’s interesting, but I wonder what your maid’s perspective was on that. You look at all these rules in place in the ’60s — the separate bathroom, the separate plate and cup. That’s not how you treat a member of the family. And that conundrum is what got me started on the real plot of the story.”
Feel free to agree or disagree.
A few links regarding this topic…