Saturday, 4 February 2012

What happens to a dream deferred?

Langston Hughes said it, Kathryn Stockett seconds it. Wow.


You might recall the last time I discussed (openly, to myself) Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help. If you don't, it's here.

I wrote that discussion before I'd actually read the book. I had read lots of other things about Stockett and her topsy-turvy road to publication: the oodles of rejections, the one acceptance by literary agent Susan Ramer, the rise to best-seller status, the movie adaptation, the lawsuit. I wrote my discussion about the question of how closely one can base his or her novel on people in real life. The people closest to you can pop up in a story almost without you even being aware of it. Or sometimes you are very aware. And I think that is every artist's right.

A book is a reflection of life and also a moving dream. And we all know we can't learn or live in a vacuum. Like Chuck Palaniuk said, you write to shock people. Otherwise don't write.

Today, I write about The Help not as a writer but as a reader. I genuinely adore this book. It took some guts for her to write it. Even today.  I can hardly put it down - long enough to write this post. 40 pages to go and I'm really antsy to get back to it.

I can see why this is Stockett's passion, because this subject is my passion too. Race relations in the American south were, for a very long time, dischordant.

The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell, 1964

Still are, really. Segregation's gone but the bitter aftertaste is still there in many places. I had learned from history books in school and on TV (I idolize Dr. Martin Luther King), and I've seen the police with the firehoses in documentaries from the 1960s, and I've studied Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "The Haunted Oak," and the lyrics of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," and The Help goes right up with those. It is brilliant, unapologetic, it takes you by the hand and leads you into a nightmare. Change, indeed, begins with a whisper.

If you're out there and reading this: Good job, Kathryn Stockett, for never deferring your dream.

Enjoy your Saturday, Loyal Reader.


  1. I will have to borrow this from you it sounds very intriguing.