Best-selling author of 'The Help' has a new novel in mind

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Image Credit: Kem Lee

It’s been nearly two and half years since Kathryn Stockett blew the doors off the publishing world with her surprise best-seller The Help, a story about the enmeshed worlds of African American maids and their white employers in Civil Rights era Jackson, Mississippi. As she readies herself for the big screen release of the movie adaptation—directed by her best childhood friend Tate Taylor, and starring Oscar nominee Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Emma Stone—Stockett admits that the last couple of years haven’t provided the necessary time or calm to write a second novel. But that doesn’t mean her imagination hasn’t already started spinning.

“I’m trying to write this story that takes place in Mississippi during the 1920s,” she tells EW, “because it was such a liberating time for women and yet so interesting to see how much women weren’t allowed to do. Socially  all the rules were still in place, but women had just gotten the vote. So it’s about a group of women who were raised in a rather white privileged home and then the Depression hit and suddenly they have no support. They have absolutely no marketable skills. So they have to figure out how to work their way up into the world and figure out how to earn a living and support each other and take care of each other.” When asked about her decision to once again write about a large ensemble of women, Stockett lets out a little peal of laughter. “I could never write a book about just one person. I’m way, way too schizophrenic for that!”

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  • Tommy Marx

    As much as I love Viola Davis, she is not an Oscar winner. She was nominated for one, but she has not yet won an Academy Award.

  • Amit

    If you’d read again, you’d notice that it says exactly that: and starring Oscar nominee Viola Davis

    • Gupta

      And if you have ever read EW before then you’d know they f*ck up all the time and quickly fix the error once a commenter points it out.

      • Summer

        Which, you know, yay for them. At least they’re aware and changing their errors. Maybe it’s not perfect, but at least they’re working on it.

      • Tommy Marx

        They did fix the error promptly. And EW makes mistakes just like every website does. I left the comment to alert them to the error, not to tell them they f-ed up. I do wish they would have someone check the comments every now and then and get rid of the spam “replies” that advertise other sites.

  • LOL

    Viola Davis is setting black people back even further with this Mammy role.

    • Lauren

      You haven’t read the book is the only way I can interpret that.

      • datruth82

        @Lauren: And, you clearly have never been black if that’s the way you interpret what LOL said.

      • SLB

        I have read the book and it is chock full of racial stereotypes and terrible references.

      • jodipo

        yes and that is the POINT of the book, to show the horrible way black help was treated not all that long ago in the south. It was horrible and the book is fantastic and kudos for showing the ugly face of the southern culture that was

      • Tom

        It needs more black cowboys.

      • Avery

        @datruth82

        if you’d read the book, you’d know the character viola davis plays is not a “mammy” role… lauren’s comment makes perfect sense.

      • LOL

        Lauren is just some pretentious white girl who thinks she knows what it’s like to be black.

      • MissE

        And you, LOL, sound like a black person with a chip on your shoulder even though you never experienced any of the hardships our ancestors did.

    • mkr63

      It’s history. It’s the way it was…showing that isn’t ‘setting black people back’, it’s making people aware of how far things have come.

      • Avery

        THANK YOU. at least some people have common sense. and I’m black by the way.

      • k8dee

        Yeah but WHOSE history??? Told through WHOSE eyes? Lots of black women have written much better and much more multi-faceted literature about black domestics (Alice Childress’ “Like One of the Family” springs to mind). I’m tired of these same old plots of black women (and POC in general) waiting to be saved by the good white women. Black women have been saving themselves and a hell of a lot of other people without the help of white women for a long damn time. Why is it always a story from the POV of a white woman? Dear God, why?

    • LC

      I’m a black woman and I’ve read the book and I couldn’t disagree with you more. Clearly your comment comes from ignorance since I’m sure you have not read the book and have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • abadstroller

        Thank you, LC: I am not black (but proud of being dark brown), and I tend to look for condescension and pandering in all media. I actually thought that “The Help” was not only written well enough, but also does a good job of being balanced in the viewpoints. In fact, I think Stockett goes out of her way to make certain that “the white girl” isn’t anybody’s savior (certainly not even her own)–many times in the book, this girl makes mistakes in judgment and is sometimes not likeable. The true heroines are the 3 principle characters who happen to be fully-realized African-American women (with personal issues, strength, and flaws like anyone else).

    • Jamie sanger

      I have read the book it is wonderful. She is trying to show her readers just how horrible the “help” where treated in the south. In the book she shows just how ignorant the white uperclass women were. I thought she created wonderful characters in her novel. Ms Davis will most likely be nominated for an Oscar again for this role. And as far as setting black people back I think you did this just now with your uneducated comment.

  • elaine

    Haven’t seen the movie yet but “some of the rappers” with their bad language, comedians disrespecting women in particular black women and the complete disregard for black women has set us back.

  • RyanL

    Won’t it be nice when we truly live in a color-blind world. Black and white people need to stop stereotyping and maybe they will cease to exist. You guys are all dumb.

  • bill

    I can’t wait for her novel about straight people who help gay hairdressers come out of the closet and address the AIDS crisis.

    • Lola

      Bill you are truly awesome. Best…comment…ever!!!! (Meaning, exactly what I was thinking but written in a much more clever way!)

  • Bobbi

    Can’t wait for your next books!

    • LOL

      Another pretentious white girl. Entertained by the struggles of black folk.

      • Bobbi

        You, are an ass. And quite wrong.

      • LOL

        White guilt at it’s finest. Watching movies like this won’t get rid of it. Just treat people equally. Supporting movies like this just do more harm in separating whites and blacks even more.

      • MissE

        I’m pretty sure LOL’s attitude is way more divisive than any movie.

      • Julie

        TROLL

  • 5kidswdisabilities

    I recently purchased the audio book of “The Help” and it was 17 hours long. Either someone reads very very slow, or it is a nice, long book. That means lots of good times listening in my car.

  • Sasha P

    No mention of the fact that Kathryn Stockett is being sued by a family maid who she portrayed in her “fictional” book without consent? I hope ‘the help’ wins a huge settlement.
    Also, the book is completely racist. YOu only need to read her description of the black characters. They’re black like asphalt, they’re fat and stout, they waddle. It’s all in the book you can try to deny it, but it is right in there.

    • Anne

      That’s actually not true — she’s being sued by a babysitter Stockett’s brother CURRENTLY employs because her (the babysitter’s) name is very similar to Abeline. She’s suing for $50,000. Should also point out that Stockett’s brother was very opposed to her writing the book because many whites in the South who were alive during that time would prefer that everyone just forget about those years. You may not agree with how Stockett writes but at least she’s not IGNORING the reality of those years, which includes the complexity of the relationships between white familys that employed black babysitters, housekeepers, etc. Not every black person in the South in the 60’s was a Civil Rights protester, or a victim of a lynching, or a traitor — most were just people trying to get by. And not every white person in the South during the 60’s was a member of the KKK or a Scarlett O’Hara, or a Freedom Rider-wannabe, they lived the lives they knew. Sometimes, people did “little” things to challenge the status quo, to stir things up. That TYPE of activity is what Stockett writes about.
      *
      All that said, if you want a truly useful view of that age in Mississippi, check out “Local People” by noted Civil Rights historian John Dittmer. He focuses on the work of home-grown heroes who really made progress in Mississippi, most of whom never heard their names on the news or on TV, and who certainly didn’t make it into our history books. He also focuses on the relationships between blacks and few progressive local whites.

  • Brian

    I read the book and loved it, the strong characters in the book are the black women, the idiotic characters are the spoiled white women they work for. I grew up in Mississippi, and unless you have that context, as Stockett does, you can’t understand. This is the way it really was, and in some instances still is, in the south. The maids in the book wanted people to know about their struggles, but they had no voice except for Skeeter, and even she could not put her name on her book, for fear of violence. Sorry people, that is the way it really was in the South during that time. I grew up with “help”, a black maid. In my house, she was just that, “help”. She and my mother were joined at the hip, two women working together to do jobs that normally a man would do (my father passed at 42). When she died, it ripped a hole in my mothers heart because she truly felt that she had lost her best friend. Unfortunately, not every maid had the same experience that mind did, and that is what the book is about. It is very unfortunate that we live in such a PC society, and people aren’t allowed to say things the way they really are.

    • LOL

      You sir are a racist.

      • Brian

        How do you figure? I am sure my partner, who is black, will be very interested to hear your theory.

      • Anne

        LOL, your manner of expressing yourself does you no favors — it just makes you appear closed-minded. If you have a useful contribution to make in response to a thoughtful comment from someone who LIVED the world of “The Help,” then please make it. As it is, you sould about as open as many still-living fomer leaders of white Citizens’ Councils.

    • Sammie

      Brian…your comments are dead on. I am a black woman who grew up in Mississippi. Unfortunately the sterotypes some have mentioned actually occurred in Mississippi. I think Ms. Stockett did a very good job of capturing society as it was doing those times. I grew up in one of the towns mentioned in the story. The black women were the strong characters in the book and was portrayed as such. I tip my hat off to Ms. Stockett and can’t wait to see the movie.

    • tina

      Maybe your story is the exception. But too often the story I’ve heard is of Black maids who in working for White families had little time or energy left over for their own. Wonder if the White women they worked for also considered their maids friends.

    • Gigi Young

      Err…I’m sure there were NAACP branches in MS and the black church was a pillar of civil rights (hence why so many black leaders came from the church). The Help makes it look as though the maids had no one to vent to and turn to except Skeeter, a white woman. No agency of their own.

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  • EF

    Ms. Stockett was rejected many times when she tried to get “The Help” published. I’m glad she didnt’ give up. I loved the book and will see the movie. I like the idea for her second book. I’m sure she’ll have no trouble getting it published this time.

  • faye

    Talk about sterotype. Now everybody has started rethinking how horrible the south is in relationship to whites hiring black help. NOT EVERYBODY HAD MAIDS AND NOT EVERYBODY TREATED THEIR HELP THAT WAY. We certainly didn’t and no one I know had help on a daily basis. If we did have help of the black nature, we were working right along side of them. I won’t see movie or read the book, because of the sterotyping of the white south. Racisim works both ways, ya know.

  • Christopher

    and of course a lot of people are going to hate anything written by a white Southerne

    • Lolly

      I don’t care what color Ms Stockett is this book was wonderfully written, and it told a story that needed to be told, I lived in a part of town where the so called uppity colored people lived, and when I was small I heard a lot of the stories about how some domestics would be treated and it was sad, and still going on the 70’s People had to chose whether or not to keep their mouths shut and their eyes closed or lose their jobs, LOL I can respect your right to an opinion but you really have no clue.

  • gwen napier

    I purchased this book on 7-11-11 from a Krogers store. I requested a refund back for the $13.00 that I spent on it. They would not refund my money back. I am unable to read this book based on the dialogues. I donot speak like this and I am unable to read this material. The store would not refund my money back. I would like the author or publishing company to refund my money back to me. Also, the print in the softback book is too small. A dissatified reader.

    • Zack

      Then, you ma’am, are clearly not cultured enough to read at all.

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