Friday, June 24, 2011

Read Alike: The Help

The Help is both a runaway best seller, it has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for over two years, and author Kathryn Stockett's first novel. The audiobook adaption was the 2010 Audie winner for both Fiction and Distinguished Achievement in Production. The story of 1960s Mississippi and the changes to segregation and women's roles has been a popular selection for book clubs across the nation. It's a fast-paced tale of domestic life that uses multiple narrators' distinctive voices to provide a fuller picture of this dynamic time period.

Unsurprisingly, the book has been adapted as a feature film set for release August 12, 2011. The film will star Emma Stone, Mike Vogel, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Allison Janney, and Octavia Spencer. Ms. Spencer was an inspiration for the character of Minny, whom she plays in the movie and voiced for the audiobook. Unfortunately, as you may have read, the character of Aibileen is the source of a lawsuit by Ablene Cooper, who works as a maid for Ms. Stockett's brother.

If you're among the many readers who loved The Help, we have a few reading suggestions for you:

The Dry Grass of August is a recently published coming-of-age story by another first-time author, Anna Jean Mayhew. The novel's main character is a 13-year-old girl who is closer to her family's black maid than her parents, and discovers the realities of racism in the 1950s South on a family vacation to Florida. You can read more about this novel in Amy's Staff Recommendation post.

The Secret Life of Bees is a heart-warming debut novel about a young girl in 1960s South Carolina who sticks with her "stand-in mother" in the face of segregation and racism. The author, Sue Monk Kidd, has since written a second novel and several Non-Fiction titles, which often feature religious themes.

The Air Between Us by Deborah Johnson has a similar 1960s Mississippi setting and focus on the growing Civil Rights movement, but the focus is on how integration affects the town's two physicians, one black and one white, after the death of a local hunter.

Popular author of character-driven fiction, often featuring Southern women, Anne Rivers Siddons' Downtown captures the turbulence of 1960s Atlanta. Smoky, a young writer from a poor background, moves to Atlanta to work for a local magazine and quickly becomes involved in the War on Poverty, the Civil Rights Movement, and falls in love.

Four Spirits is the story of increasingly violent racial tension in 1960s Birmingham, Alabama by author Sena Jeter Naslund, who provides fresh perspectives of well-known historical and literary figures in her novels. The action of Four Spirits centers around four young girls who were killed in a church bombing, and the choices of a white college student named Stella.

Mudbound is Hillary Jordan's first novel. The novel employs multiple narrators to explore life in rural Mississippi at the end of WWII, as Laura follows her husband and deeply racist father-in-law to a rundown farm she detests. The return of soldiers, black and white, from the battlefields of Europe only complicated the already stressful environment.

Night Talk is the story of an unexpected friendship between white Evie and black Janey Louise, the daughter of Evie's family maid in 1950s Georgia. Elizabeth Cox's third novel explores the integration of the public schools, and how these events affected the two girls throughout their lives.

Elizabeth Berg's novel We Are all Welcome Here is the heart-warming story of Paige, crippled by polio, her black caregiver Peacie, and their struggle to raise Paige's daughter Diana in 1960s Tupelo, Mississippi (the town where Elvis was born).

Freshwater Road is the debut novel by actress Denise Nicholas. The novel's main character is a young black college student from Michigan who travels to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to register black voters, and discovers a new perspective our nation's racial landscape.

Please stop by the Recommendations Desk on the first floor, check out NoveList Plus on the library's website, or visit W. 11th & Bluff next week for more reading suggestions. Or submit a Personal Recommendations request, and we'll create a reading list just for you!

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