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Old 04-04-2010, 10:00 AM   #1
*NikkiBell*
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The DIS Book Club Discussion Group: Round 2 - The Help

Good Morning, DISers!

I am proud to announce that we are ready to begin the second round of our DIS Book Club reading group! Our next selection is.... -drumroll please-




The Help
by Kathryn Stockett


Over the next several weeks, we will read and share our thoughts on The Help in this thread. Anyone who is interested in joining us is welcome. You could be a first time poster or a regular visitor to the DIS.

Please check this post in the near future for updates including a reading schedule and any other goodies that may come our way. In the meantime, visit your local library or bookstore for a copy of the novel.

See you soon!

Nikki


Synopsis
from Official Kathryn Stockett Website

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.



Author Biography
from Official Kathryn Stockett Website

Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter. The Help is her first novel.


Reading Schedule
The following reading schedule will be used as we explore the South with Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter in The Help. Feel free to read ahead and don't fret if you find yourself getting behind. Read at your own pace and enjoy. Please note that this reading schedule will be updated as time passes so be sure to check back here!

Obtain Copy of Book by April 7
Read Chapters 1-7 by April 12
Read Chapters 8-15 by April 17
Read Chapters 16-23 by April 23
Read Chapters 24-29 by April 30
Read Chapters 30-34 (End of Novel) by May 2

Book Club Discussions
One of the best parts about the DIS Unplugged Book Club is that we can share ideas about our reading here online. In order to keep our discussions moving, I will post conversation starters about each section. Feel free to post a reply with your thoughts or other ideas you had while reading that relate to a topic of your own.

If you read ahead of the above schedule, please change the text color to white so you do not give away parts of the plot that the rest of us have not read. Remember, your participation in the discussion will make this a more rewarding experience. Post away! Don't feel as if you need to wait for me to bring up a topic to discuss it. This is your group and there isn't such a thing as a reply that is too little or too big!

Discussion Point 1 - Segregation & Race

Discussion Point 2 - The Role of Women

Discussion Point 3 - Elizabeth Leefolt's Pregnancy

Discussion Point 4 - Violence In & Out of the Home

Discussion Point 5 - Friendship & Flaws (Discussion through Ch. 23)

Discussion Point 6 - Surprising Characters

Discussion Point 7 - Rating the Novel

Discussion Point 8 - Beauty Regimens of the Past & Present
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Last edited by *NikkiBell*; 05-09-2010 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 04-04-2010, 10:04 AM   #2
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This looks terrific.

Great job Nikki!!!!
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Old 04-04-2010, 10:45 AM   #3
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This one is on my list - may need to get it today!
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Old 04-04-2010, 10:46 AM   #4
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So much for buying this one in paper copy! I already have it in audio!
Might need a few clues again in which part is which

Great choice though.....it's an excellent read and is rich with stuff to discuss!

Can't wait ....off to load it on my mp3 player again!
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Old 04-04-2010, 10:48 AM   #5
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Awww rats! I just read this with my other book club...but, that said, it is a great read or listen. For those who may be interested, many people I know used the audio version of this book. It's actually being recommended by several "book club guides" due to the wonderful audio portrayals of the various characters in the story. The actors in the audio book do a phenomenal job.
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Old 04-04-2010, 10:54 AM   #6
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For those of you who have already read the novel, feel free to revisit it and take a larger role during our discussions. I always found that reading a book a second time (in parts) caused me to find new things I missed the first time!
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Old 04-04-2010, 11:21 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hankshouse View Post
Awww rats! I just read this with my other book club...but, that said, it is a great read or listen. For those who may be interested, many people I know used the audio version of this book. It's actually being recommended by several "book club guides" due to the wonderful audio portrayals of the various characters in the story. The actors in the audio book do a phenomenal job.
Quote:
Originally Posted by *NikkiBell* View Post
For those of you who have already read the novel, feel free to revisit it and take a larger role during our discussions. I always found that reading a book a second time (in parts) caused me to find new things I missed the first time!
Put it this way....I loved this book enough on audio that the minute it ended I started it again. For me this will be a third read and, you're right Nikki, you definitly get new insights into the story the second time around.
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Old 04-04-2010, 06:43 PM   #8
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Sounds great Nikki!
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Old 04-07-2010, 11:34 AM   #9
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Hi Nikki & everyone....would like to join in on this discussions. I missed the first one. I will have the book in my paws by this weekend.

Can't wait!

Kelly
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Old 04-07-2010, 11:44 AM   #10
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FYI

Costco has The Help selling at about $14.
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Old 04-07-2010, 12:17 PM   #11
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Joining in! Read this a while back, but will re-read it so I'm up to date with everyone!!!
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Old 04-07-2010, 12:24 PM   #12
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I downloaded it from ITunes and have chaper 1 done... So glad to join you all this time around!!
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Old 04-08-2010, 06:15 PM   #13
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I am so glad that everyone is enjoying their reading thus far. I have oh so many things to say about our first section and wanted to give everyone a chance to dive in before posting my thoughts. As a reminder, you should finish reading Chapters 1-7 by Monday, April 12th. Feel free to go ahead, if you'd like!


One of the major focuses of The Help is the issue of race amongst the women living in Mississippi. Told through Aibileen's point-of-view, we learn just how deep of a role segregation played in 1962 during the bridge club scene. It is at this time that Miss Leefolt and Miss Hilly discuss the idea of a separate bathroom for Aibileen to use due to her being African-American (7-8). While I am not naive of how things were during the early years of the civil rights movement, I still found myself raising an eyebrow at how ignorant Miss Leefolt and her lady friends were acting. It brought to mind the AIDS crisis in the 1990s and how so many people were afraid to be near someone with the disease. I remember watching television shows with individuals who were afraid to even sit near someone who had AIDS because they were concerned that they could contract it. Did anyone else have the same reaction to this scene in The Help? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt alienated against because of a physical trait like skin color, gender, etc.? How did you cope and what did you learn from the situation?

Later on, Miss Leefolt actually hires a contractor to build a "colored bathroom" for Aibileen to use. Towards the end of Chapter 2, she lets Aibileen know it is ready for use and hints at her to clean the white bathroom immediately. Aibileen's reaction was absolutely priceless and really showed the raw emotion felt by those being discriminated against during the 1960s:

" 'I use my colored bathroom from now on...And then I go on and Clorox the white bathroom again real good'...I put the iron down real slow, feel that bitter seed grow in my chest...My face goes hot, my tongue twitchy. I don't know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain't saying it. And I know she ain't saying what she want a say either and it's a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation." (29)

I can really picture this scene in my head here: white woman nervously fiddling with her wedding ring and staring down her black maid. The anger and hate that Aibileen must have felt at this very moment was monumental. Still, she keeps it together out of fear of losing her major source of income and access to her beloved Mae Mobly. Have you ever been in a situation where you had a "conversation" without saying something? What led to this taking place and how was the tension resolved?
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Old 04-08-2010, 07:03 PM   #14
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Nikki,

I have to say that these are very thoughtful questions...

and I may not respond to them directly but feel the need to share my reaction.


Quote:
Did anyone else have the same reaction to this scene in The Help? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt alienated against because of a physical trait like skin color, gender, etc.? How did you cope and what did you learn from the situation?
I certainly reacted to the conversation about needing to have separate bathrooms with immediate anger and felt a lot of respect for Aibileen in keeping her feelings to herself. But then my next thought was that while we may not have resolved all of the inequities or erased stigma, I feel good that my children have been able to grow up without some of the sociatal myths. As a child growing up during the sixties I do remember the novelty of integration - while I went to school with African American children, the community was not truely integrated.

We still have a lot of work to do in our society to erase stereotypes and stigma.


Quote:
Have you ever been in a situation where you had a "conversation" without saying something? What led to this taking place and how was the tension resolved?
This was such a powerful part of the story and it made me think about how the character of Abilieen would grow.
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Old 04-10-2010, 12:58 PM   #15
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Thank you for putting these discussion points together, Nikki. I've never participated in a book discussion before, and so wasn't too sure how to participate.

I'm an avid book reader, and usually once I get started, I don't stop, and so finished the book this morning. For this discussion, though, I'll keep with the timeline here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by *NikkiBell* View Post
One of the major focuses of The Help is the issue of race amongst the women living in Mississippi. Told through Aibileen's point-of-view, we learn just how deep of a role segregation played in 1962 during the bridge club scene. It is at this time that Miss Leefolt and Miss Hilly discuss the idea of a separate bathroom for Aibileen to use due to her being African-American (7-8). While I am not naive of how things were during the early years of the civil rights movement, I still found myself raising an eyebrow at how ignorant Miss Leefolt and her lady friends were acting. It brought to mind the AIDS crisis in the 1990s and how so many people were afraid to be near someone with the disease. I remember watching television shows with individuals who were afraid to even sit near someone who had AIDS because they were concerned that they could contract it. Did anyone else have the same reaction to this scene in The Help? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt alienated against because of a physical trait like skin color, gender, etc.? How did you cope and what did you learn from the situation?


When I read the scene where the two women are discussing creating a separate bathroom I felt a sense of shock due to the personal level that this situation affected Aibileen. I was born in 1960, and raised in Los Angeles, which has a more diverse culture. Of course, I have heard and read about discrimination, and seen it first-hand, but to see this one detail really struck me.

Then I felt angry on Aibileen's behalf. I started to imagine how trapped she must have felt to be working for someone who obviously thought so little of her. It wasn't just that she was considered to be less equal, but that she was devalued as a human. In their eyes she was stripped of her dignity, and no matter how she felt she couldn't stand up for herself.

As I imagined how it must have felt to be Aibileen, I came to the realization that I may empathize with her, but I can't really imagine myself in her place because no matter how much I may think about it, I have never had to feel the shame that years in that culture would bring forth. I understand the difference.

Here are a couple of personal experiences with discrimination:

I'm of Mexican/Spanish descent. My father was a little darker skinned, and spoke with a slight accent because he learned Spanish before English. He was an educated man and graduated high school in three years (graduated from the university with a degree). In his senior year he was editor of his high school newspaper in El Paso. He won a trip to Austin. He was excited. He had never been out of El Paso before (his family did not have much money). He was shocked when he went to Austin and had to sit at the back of the bus and drink from a different water fountain than the "white" people. (Isn't it ironic that on the census we are Caucasion but in Austin he wasn't white enough to use the same fountain.) That experience tainted my father's view towards anglo's for the rest of his life. I remember when I was young in the 60's and an anglo would come to the house. My dad would tense up. He just couldn't help it.

When I've been in Europe I have been looked at as a "dirty Yankee." One time in Spain my girlfriend & I said we were Canadian because of the anti-American sentiment in one particular place. We didn't want to deal with it.

I remember these incidences that we experienced, and yet, it isn't nearly as extreme as Aibileen's situation. She was dependent on these women for her livelihood, and there was no escaping their prejudism against her. How does a person's spirit survive that? How can a person overcome the shame caused because others think her to be dirty merely by her outward appearance.


Quote:
Originally Posted by *NikkiBell* View Post
Later on, Miss Leefolt actually hires a contractor to build a "colored bathroom" for Aibileen to use. Towards the end of Chapter 2, she lets Aibileen know it is ready for use and hints at her to clean the white bathroom immediately. Aibileen's reaction was absolutely priceless and really showed the raw emotion felt by those being discriminated against during the 1960s:
Quote:
Originally Posted by *NikkiBell* View Post

" 'I use my colored bathroom from now on...And then I go on and Clorox the white bathroom again real good'...I put the iron down real slow, feel that bitter seed grow in my chest...My face goes hot, my tongue twitchy. I don't know what to say to her. All I know is, I ain't saying it. And I know she ain't saying what she want a say either and it's a strange thing happening here cause nobody saying nothing and we still managing to have us a conversation." (29)

I can really picture this scene in my head here: white woman nervously fiddling with her wedding ring and staring down her black maid. The anger and hate that Aibileen must have felt at this very moment was monumental. Still, she keeps it together out of fear of losing her major source of income and access to her beloved Mae Mobly. Have you ever been in a situation where you had a "conversation" without saying something? What led to this taking place and how was the tension resolved?
I don't think I have ever been in a situation where I silently communicated with someone due to a tense situation. I tend to try to resolve things verbally, and if that is not possible I either remove myself from the situation, or learn to live with the situation.

Having said that, I have been in situations where I had a very difficult manager who was unreasonable, and I did not have the freedom to say what I really thought. I was able to keep my calm knowing that I was in the right, and the thought "this, too, shall pass."

In The Help, Aibileen does not have that luxury. In her world, at the time that the bathroom was built and she was banished to the outside room there was no "this, too, shall pass."
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