Monday, December 30, 2013

The Reader's Year in Review

Hello, fellow furious readers.  It's been awhile since my last post.  My big reason for my absence is I spent more time reading wedding books than books of substance in the last three months of 2013.  All ignored socioeconomic status and contemporary changes to gender roles and all annoyed the hell out of me (Really? Choosing the wrong silverware will make or break my wedding?  Really? My entire existence does not rely on my goals and accomplishments as a person, but by how my groom sees me in my "princess gown" for the first time?).  And what have I learned from wedding books and magazines?

Absolutely,

positively

nothing.

Seriously.

Nothing.

Not to bore any of you, but I've come to the conclusion that any wedding guide/book/magazine that promises to be "helpful" is most likely NOT going to be helpful, and instead ruthlessly murders your brain cells, creates a feeling of inadequacy as a person/woman, and prompts you to make decisions in which you compromise most of your principles. I believe that you can learn anything from books (even if it is how to NOT write a book), but I struggle with what I can take away from wedding books.  It does encourage me to write something of my own in which I stress that wedding days are overrated (with the most important part stressed as everyone's true colors are exposed on a wedding day) and, if presented with a TARDIS, would most likely try to stop the whole business from happening.  But I digress - as I often do.

My second big reason is I spent the last four weeks of 2013 grading and reading papers for my classes.  Some were gems and some were concerning.  Some were clever and some were ordinary.  Regardless of which type of paper it had been, I continue to believe that this country needs to offer more artistic outlets.  Obviously, the most important creative outlet should be reading.

My third big reason (I do this because I enjoy when things come in threes) is I spent the last four months of this year focusing on a big adjustment (a much bigger adjustment than my wedding).  I lost my cat, Minerva Jove, to cancer in September, and then gained a new addition in October - a little kitten named Alaska, appropriately named for our favorite John Green novel, Looking for Alaska (she looks like the cover of the book:  dark with little wisps of gray smoke curling around her).

On top of these major life moments, I also spent my time looking for something worthwhile to read.  As with most major turning points in my life, I turn to books to help guide my way.  I went through a nonfiction obsession over the last couple of weeks, which did nothing to persuade me to see nonfiction reading as lifestyle.  I'm not sure if anyone has noticed, but one does not need to be a good writer to get anything published and this thought process holds true for most nonfiction pieces (more on that in 2014).

Despite the life responsibilities pulling me in different directions, I found myself celebrating my love of reading.  Believe it or not, the wedding helped reinforce the one thing that is important to my husband and myself:  books.  We gave out books as wedding favors (one of my favorite moments in the wedding planning); we piled over 200 books in various baskets on the favor table and encouraged our guests to choose the right book for them.  Nothing made me happier than to see our guests take this job very seriously - what book should they go home with?  Should they choose something they've read years ago, or take their chances on a new name?  Inside the favors were bookmarks commemorating our event (beauty and functionality - my favorite combination.  I suppose that's my American thought process showing itself).  For our honeymoon, we are going to create a "bookstore crawl" of London.  For Christmas gifts this year, we made sure that everyone had a book included with their gift.  This has been working so well that I think I will include a personally selected book with any gift I give someone.  We've decorated our place so that books are the stars of the show - not DVDs, not electronics, not expensive art.  Books - those pockets of knowledge in which personalities have been forged - are everywhere in my apartment.

With one day left before the new calendar year, I'm excited for the books I will read in 2014 and I'm holding my breath for the duds I will come across in my reading travels.  Today I've turned to a new page in my reading list journal and, as I wrote "January 1, 2014 - December 31, 2014," I grew dizzy with all the possibilities that await me.

Here's to more furious reading!

"Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion. Give me a man or woman who has read perhaps three and you give me a dangerous enemy indeed"  Anne Rice, The Witching Hour


Continue Reading...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy Banned Books Week!

“With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word 'intellectual,' of course, became the swear word it deserved to be.”  - Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Today, babies, we celebrate Banned Books Week (I am aware, since it is Thursday, that the week is almost over.  Just go with it).  If you are new to celebrating Banned Books Week, you can check out two very helpful websites to find out more:  http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks  and http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/  Trust me, they are worth the click.

My students always ask why it matters to be aware of Banned Books Week. To them, they read what they want to read (if they read at all, unfortunately) and the discussion ends here.  I always tell them, "I wish it were that simple."  But it isn't, so we must note this week, and its significance, every year.  Books are challenged, judged and categorized every day - usually by those who have never read the book.  It is one idea to dislike a book because you have read it; it is an entirely different idea to hate a book because of what you THINK it might contain.  Growing up, my parents never censored my reading.  They didn't go out of their way to give me age-inappropriate books (although I probably should not have read The Shining in my preteen years - I found a copy of it on my grandmother's bookshelf and read it secretly between my classes), but if I wanted to read something challenging, my mother would read the book with me and then we would discuss the book together.  I could ask my questions and if she didn't have answers, we would try to figure them out together.  Our tradition continues to this day.  She has provided me with great books to read, and I return the favor whenever I can.  I am well aware that today, kids can find tons of inappropriate information online and parents (and teachers) cannot keep up with conversations and Q&A's.

However, this does NOT, under any circumstances, allow someone to ban a book.  Ever.

To ban a book is to make someone afraid of knowledge.  To ban a book is to make a problem that doesn't exist.  To ban a book is to challenge our First Amendment rights.  To ban a book is to set a poor course for the future. To ban a book is to undermine its purpose, which is to create an awareness of a world bigger than yourself.  My great-uncle always says, "Read everything.  Even if it's trash.  You still learn something."  And while I find some books to be trash (Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight, I am looking in your direction), I would never support banning them.

The problem is that we don't read.  Libraries are filled with books, but they aren't organized to their demographics.  The librarians at my library aren't helpful and are often cranky when they have to do their jobs.  Most will tell you that they don't read (I was scolded a few weeks ago for taking out "too many books").  This is an issue for me because there is a time and place (and age) to read certain books.  Yet I can find Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye in the YA section.  This books is brilliant; it is well-written, and it is a must-read.  However, a thirteen or fourteen-year-old would not understand its depth.  Nor would we want them to.  But groups hear of a book's content and suddenly everyone should lose their chance to be exposed to the book's message.  This is my problem:  we are perpetuating the fear factor that books are dangerous.

Well, books ARE dangerous - but, like all weapons, they are only dangerous in the wrong hands.

Our second problem is we glorify the authors who don't deserve our attention, and criminalize those who deserve our respect.  I call this the "Fifty Shades" problem:  it isn't a black and white issue, but the "shades of grey" are usually associated with book sales and public fervor.  Fifty Shades of Grey is listed on the challenged book list as containing "offensive language" and content that is "sexually explicit."  This is true, but I would advise everyone to avoid reading it due to its bad grammar, horrible storytelling, boring characters, a nonsense love story, lack of a strong narrative, predictable plot points, and making light of a sexually violent relationship.  The key word to this example is "to advise."  I would tell a friend or a student to avoid this book because of the above mentioned reasons.  However, if they choose to read it anyway, they should be able to do so without consequence.   In contrast, you have a fantastic YA novel called Looking for Alaska by John Green that focuses on issues of love, fear, courage, death and how all of these prompt us to make our decisions, but this book is challenged for the same reasons as Fifty Shades of Grey.  The two do not belong in the same group, yet on paper they are the exact same read.  We should all be bothered by this.

Our next problem is we allow others to make decisions for us.  If my child wanted to read Captain Underpants (another book that is challenged frequently every year), and I am unfamiliar with the series, then I would make it a point to read the books before my child.  This would allow me to determine if the book is age appropriate.  If it isn't, I would wait a few more years when I know we can have an educated conversation together.  Allowing schools, media outlets, and other people (who don't know us or our families) to make our reading decisions is leading us down the wrong path.  Would we ban the VMAs because every year a young pop artist (usually female) gives a sexy performance?  Would we ban a TV show because it contains "offensive language," "violence," or material "unsuited for age groups?"  Obviously, the answer is no because too much money would be lost.  So why are books on the chopping block?  Why are we demonizing an activity that provides us with a stronger worldview, a well-rounded vocabulary, and a chance to find answers to difficult questions (plus, reading burns more calories than watching TV...just sayin').  Statistically, the majority of people who seek to ban or to challenge books are parents.  Most of time, I feel it is because they read or hear something from someone and didn't take the time to look up the information themselves. I know we live in a busy world, but losing the freedom to read is more important than showing off another selfie on your profile.  Trust me, no one cares where you are going for dinner tonight.

Every year, we celebrate Banned Books Week in the hopes that next year we won't have to celebrate Banned Books Week.  It isn't a holiday but a constant battle to save those who view books as a destructive force.  If we foster an open-mindedness to reading, perhaps we can liberate all forms of literature.  Perhaps bookstores will feature more readers than shoppers looking for board games, coffee, or to kill time before a movie.  Our culture is encouraging ignorance because it looks cooler and it is less work than making informed and intelligent decisions.  I will be the first to tell my students that intelligence is hard work.  But it's always, ALWAYS worth it in the end.

The official website offers a list of banned books that have helped shape America (http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapedamerica).  Some may surprise (i.e. Where the Wild Things Are) and some may not surprise (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird).    Without these books, would have lost valuable lessons and icons in our nation's short history.  We need to give more books this chance.

Read a banned or challenged book.  You may like it, or you may hate it.
But at least you can say you read it.
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Summer in Review

September has begun...we've said goodbye to Labor Day, longer days, and stifling (but wonderful) heat.  I am going to be honest - my goal of reaching 100 books in one year seems further from my reach.  While I will not reach 100 books in 365 days, I am making progress and putting together an extensive reading log for the year.  Not exactly 100 books, but I'm confident my annual reading journey will be a good one.

With that being said, I am going to share with you my favorite reads of this summer.  We still have a few months of 2013 left - make it count.  Pay a visit to your local library and/or bookstore and begin stocking up for the winter.  Squirrels will gather their acorns, geese will begin to fly south, but you, my dear furious readers, will have books to devour.  Make your lists now before the first snow hits.

1.  Ragnarok:  The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt --> To know me is to understand my undying love for the Canongate Myth series.  This is a series where brilliant, talented, contemporary authors are given an opportunity to rewrite a popular myth or story.  In this particular novel, Byatt (her most famous work is Possession, which is another great read) takes on the complicated world of Norse mythology (if you have trouble keeping up with the Greeks, wait until you spend time with Norse gods).  Byatt juxtaposes her retellings with the story of a young girl hiding out in the British countryside to wait for the end of WWII.  She finds a book of Norse gods and goddesses and uses this book - while extremely violent and sad - as a healing potion to get her through the war.  It is a beautiful story of the power of narrative and life before, during, and after war.

P.S.  Loki is pretty awesome in this book as well.  Is it wrong that I imagined him to look like Tom Hiddleston?

2.  The Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, a short story on the side called "Dream Dark," Beautiful Chaos and Beautiful Redemption) 
--> Nothing says "summer" like a young adult, paranormal series.  I loved the Southern town Garcia and Stohl created - especially the areas that were haunted by Civil War ghosts.  Ethan Wate is a fantastic narrator, but the real story belongs to his relationship with Lena, who has a destiny of her own.  Throw in a few trips to New Orleans, a family of incubi, and witchcraft and you have a series that leaves Twilight in a pile of (sparkly) dust.  I was disappointed by the movie, but the cast is well chosen. I just wish Hollywood puts the same care into smaller YA series that they use for larger, nonsense series such as Twilight.  There is more to a YA paranormal series than including vampires.  I'm glad Garcia and Stohl are here to teach us that.

3.  How Soon is Never? by Marc Spitz -->  As a kid born in the 80's but raised in the 90's, I did not feel such a strong connection to the Smiths as Spitz's narrator.  However, I do love the Smiths so I picked up this book and began to read.  How do you reunite an international superstar band?  Well...you don't...but you learn a lot about the obsession of music and the lure of living in the past.  Joe Green, the novel's protagonist, is a horrible person.  I hated him from beginning to end.  Sounds crazy, but it made the book better.  If I grew to love him and all of his horrible vices and selfish ways, I would have been disappointed in Spitz AND myself.

4.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson by  John Green and David Levithan  --> Um...can we say "magical?"  This book is funny, heartbreaking, beautiful, annoying and perfect in one big gulp.  I love everything these two men write and to write a book together makes the YA reader inside me swoon.  One fateful (emphasis on the word) night, Will Grayson meets will grayson.  Sounds improbable?  Believe or not, it all makes sense.  Green channels one Will Grayson and Levithan channels the other- the chapters are split between Will Grayson and will grayson (I LOVE when font is used for storytelling purposes!).   The narratives head toward an amazing finale that features a musical written by Will's very large, very gay, football-playing best friend named Tiny.

I will say no more.  If you have not discovered the worlds of John Green or David Levithan, apologize to yourself and then go read everything they have ever written.

5.  If You Can Read This:  the Philosophy of Bumper Stickers by Jack Bowen -->  Since my classrooms are filled with students from all different disciplines, I like to bring different subjects to my lectures.  Bowen uses the popular culture of bumper stickers and marries it with semiotics, philosophy, and science.  I have to agree with Bowen that one's choice in bumper stickers provides a very telling visual into our worldview, whether we like it or not.  If you CAN read this great piece of non-fiction (sorry, couldn't resist), you'll think twice before altering your car's bumper.  Plus I got to show my students that anything in our culture can serve as subject matter.

My top five for the summer.  Go forth and build your bookshelves!
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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thank Goodness for the Fall Semester

Well, hello, my babies...it is so nice to be back.  I, your fearless/absent-minded/terrified/bookworm leader, am back from a looooong sabbatical.  Was it worth it?  Yes!  But I did miss you so.

There are going to be so many changes with Read Furiously.  I am so excited to tell you all about it; however, I cannot spoil the surprise, so you MUST follow the little breadcrumbs throughout this season!

Breadcrumb #1:  If you haven't checked it out, click on over to the right side of this blog to read The M.O.T.H.E.R Principle, my first graphic novel with the very talented Adam Wilson, featuring art from the very awesome Alicia Padron.                                                                              -------------------->

The M.O.T.H.E.R Principle is a story of genetically-altered young women who possess the blood and qualities of famous women throughout history.  They have escaped from their creator, M.O.T.H.E.R, and are currently planning to wage war to get their freedom back.  Part dystopia, part history, part sibling rivalry, part debris, our series emphasizes the old adage:

M.O.T.H.E.R is always right.  

I hope you enjoy it.  This is my first graphic novel series and I am so excited to introduce this to the world.  A new page is posted every Tuesday morning.  The M.O.T.H.E.R. Principle

Breadcrumb #2:  The fall semester is upon me and I have so many interesting and fun classes.  My students are going to reading, I am going to be reading, and I will DEFINITELY keep you posted on what YOU should be reading.

Breadcrumb #3 (because there are always three):  Check back every Thursday for a new post about reading well, reading often, and reading furiously.

Until then, babies. See you among the bookshelves.


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Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Authenticity Debate


"I'm not really sure which parts of myself are real and which parts are things I've gotten from books." Go Ask Alice, Anonymous

The afternoon I decided to read Go Ask Alice, I had just gotten off the phone with my dad in which we tried to remember the words to “White Rabbit” and could only come up with “go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall…” That song is creepy enough. And, even as an adult, the novel left me unsettled. So much in fact that I discussed it in length and had my family and colleagues begging me to read something else, anything else.

The novel begins as most addiction lit does: an innocent child is corrupted by the people around her, her culture (in this case the early 70’s when families were struggling to keep those scary drugs out of their picture perfect/ignorant households), and her friends. (It's always the friends.)  The novel itself is a cautionary tale, meant to shock and leave the reader terrified of all drugs, even the caffeine found in their morning latte. The problem with Go Ask Alice is it focuses too much on everyday melodrama and then offers a few scenes that read like an afterschool special.  When the narrator has difficulty connecting her situation with reality, you can hardly blame her for confusing textbook addiction with real-life addiction.

The story itself is shocking but, to be honest, it just made me glad I didn’t live in the 70’s. It seemed like such an angry time in America’s history and the protagonist – an anonymous teenage girl – receives the brunt of its abuse. The story is told in a diary format, and I have to commend the “authors” (aside from the drug abuse storyline, another controversy for this book is the question of its authenticity) for leaving out huge pieces of the narrative. The format matches the erratic tone of the narrative (which the Crank series had been missing). Obviously the protagonist’s naivety annoyed me, but I am going to assume it was my 21st century mindset editorializing as I was reading.

Like the cautionary tales before it, Go Ask Alice takes on the same fate as Charlotte Temple – you know the protagonist is doomed from the start. I forgot to remember that and was shocked when I reached the epilogue ::embarrassed professor cough:: How could this have happened? Wasn't anyone watching her? Who would let this happen? I was furious. Now that I've had time to digest, I realize it wasn't the ending that shocked me but the clinical voice in the epilogue. The diary ends abruptly and the audience is left with this condescending, scolding voice telling us THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO BAD PEOPLE. Again, with my 21st century mind, I found this to be an insult to everyone who suffers from addiction. The protagonist needs help and she does not get it from anyone she comes in contact with in the novel. Everyone is useless, which cements her unfortunate fate. The epilogue makes the argument that addiction can be beaten by the sheer will of the individual. We know now that this isn't the case. Like everything else in this world, there is more to the equation, more players to the stage.  If the "authors" were going for authentic narrative, they should have left out their soapbox speech.

As I mentioned before, the novel spends more time shocking its readers than reminding us of its purpose as a cautionary tale. I have to admit, some scenes were devastating to get through and a bit shocking. At one point the protagonist is sent to a mental institution. That event is heartbreaking enough – the story of how she got there is downright terrifying - perhaps a little far-fetched as well?

Did I feel for this unknown protagonist? Absolutely. It will disappoint those who published Go Ask Alice that I didn’t feel for her because of her drug addiction. I connected to this unknown protagonist because I wondered how many more like her fell victim to not only drugs but to the ignorance and indifference of their time period. And how many more like her were silenced, reedited and labeled as “anonymous” drug addicts.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

Finding Alice


To begin, I am embarrassed to say that I am an adult, two years away from thirty, and I have not read Go Ask Alice.  My local library only had one copy and eventually it went missing (to this day, I don’t think they ever found the culprit). My book allowance was small and our bookstores in the area were nonexistent, so I had to be quite choosy about what I bought to read. Alas, Alice did not make the cut.

It breaks my hear to discover that most of my freshman do not read. Every day it is a desperate battle to get them interested in anything besides the personal spheres they inhabit. So when my students are interested in a book, I make a point to read it. A few semesters ago, some of my classes were reading the Crank trilogy by Ellen Hopkins. Interested by the free verse poetry format, I decided to take the time. This in itself proved to be an odyssey of sorts – the public library had a few copies but a very long waiting list presented itself. While my book allowance has grown, I still refused to spend the money. This was turning into another Alice.

Luckily, the Booktrader had a copy! I read all three of the Crank (Crank, Impulse, Glass) novels and while the story is compelling, the entire narrative regarding Kristina and her addiction could have been written in a single volume, prose novel. The poems did nothing for me but give me a headache with the crazy font and spacing. However, Kristina’s story stuck with me and I decided to buy (yes, I did say “buy) Go Ask Alice.

With that being said, I have come to the conclusion that addiction literature is hard to find and also very difficult to write. Unless it is a direct memoir such as Tweak (Nic Sheff) or Beautiful Boy (written by his father David Sheff) [NOTE: These two novels should always be read as a pair] I am noticing that a fictional-but-based-from-a-true-story addicted protagonist is hard to pin down. The only FICTIONALIZED story about addiction that pulls this off well is Walter Dean Myers’ Dope Sick. But let’s face it, Mr. Myers is excellent at young adult fiction. Unfortunately, that novel is too young and my students are in the 18-20 year range, so it makes sense that Hopkins’ gritty series speaks to them. Again - how do we make them convincing? At what point do we decide that we care if they live or die? In the case of Kristina’s situation in Crank ---

(to summarize: Kristina ends up having kids with different fathers and her only relationship is her addiction to meth. Her mother takes in her first son, but the other children end up living with their fathers, also drug addicts, or taken into foster homes.)

--I could have cared less about Kristina and worried more for her children. I think Hopkins felt this way too because the last novel of the trilogy is told through the POV’s of Kristina’s children. Her oldest, Hunter, is the less sympathetic of the bunch, but I digress.

Maybe I expected more from Crank. The beginning of the novel introduces the perfect young adult, Kristina, who decides one night to dance with the “monster” Crank. Personifying the drug and making it a tangible demon to follow Kristina around may have held my interest a bit more. However, I cannot fault Kristina/Bree. Without them, I would not have rekindled my interest jump down the rabbit hole and Go Ask Alice.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Help - Skeeter & Scout's Coming of Age

“I always order the banned books from a black market dealer in California, figuring if the State of Mississippi banned them, they must be good.” --  The Help


I didn't realize what the movie was lacking until I finished reading the book.  Isn't that always the case - the book is ALWAYS better than the movie?  Well, since the film version of The Help carried such a high torch, it is only natural that the book would be an inspiring read.  Just not the way I expected it to be.

One of the pieces I wish desperately they kept in the film (and as a former filmmaker, I understand how difficult adaptations can be, so I do not hold this against them), is the love of reading and writing, the love of storytelling that is stressed from the first page to the last.  The book is divided into three narratives - with the exception of the Benefit chapter, which is a third person omniscient (when the reader and the author are aware of the characters' thoughts and actions) point of view.  The first narrative is Aibileen Clark, an older African-American woman who has been a maid for many white families in Jackson, Mississippi.  The second narrative is Aibileen's best friend, Minny Jackson, who is the best cook in Mississippi, but is known as a "sass-mouth" to the white women that employ her.  The third and final narrative is Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a young white woman, recently graduated from college, and discovering she is an outsider in her group of affluent friends.  While Skeeter's friends are interested in marriage, babies, and telling their maids what to do, Skeeter wants to get a job at a publishing company and become a writer.  Since the story has been out for some time, I will spare the details of how these three protagonists get together.  Let's just say it has to do with a book and that book has to do with the help.

Of course, all novels need a villian, and that part is filled by Hilly Holbrook.  Stockett has created a frightening combination of mean girl/suburban snob/Mississippi racist in Holbrook.  Hilly is proud of her efforts to spearhead the Home Sanitation Initiative, which is one of the reasons Skeeter and Aibileen decide to put together their book.  Hilly is a world-class bully, an all-around horrible, selfish person, a vicious racist, and a fantastic representation of the South's views during the Civil Rights Movement.  Hilly's racist behaviors do not just extend to the help; once she figures out the Skeeter is looking for a change in the racial atmosphere in Mississippi, she immediately decides that if Skeeter is not with the rest of the "ladies," then she must be against them.  Hilly's cold shoulder and Skeeter's alienation from her childhood friends and guaranteed place in the Southern Belle social sphere reminds the reader of other parts of our nation's history when people where forced to  turn against family and friends for the sake of right and wrong.  I have to applaud Stockett for Skeeter's narrative when this happens.  While Skeeter knows she is doing right by creating this book, she also yearns for her ordinary life - the one that was promised to her since birth (the husbands, the benefits, the help), and yet the life she knows she despises and would never want for herself.  Skeeter is Scout all grown up as the rest of America holds on to outdated belief structures of class and racial superiority. Skeeter gets it, but her economic class and skin  color forces her to live a double life. Naturally, as her contemporary audience, we don't agree with this - at times I wanted to yell at Skeeter to grow up and get an opinion of her own - but my patience was rewarded as she begins to understand that fear of change held her childhood home in its choke-hold.

Aside from Hilly's Initiative, Stockett also infuses actual historical references such as the shooting of Medger Evers, Dr. King's March in D.C., and the new world of rock and roll and hippies.  While the dates aren't accurate (and she does address this in her afterword, which is as refreshing as an after-dinner mint), Stockett's message to her audience is as clear as the Dylan song she references:  the times were, in fact, a-changing.

Some of the scenes in the novel belong to another character, Miss Celia, who is the Huck Finn to Minny's Aunt Sally.  Minny manages to "civilize" Miss Celia, but it isn't before Miss Celia teaches ole Miss (and Minny) about why we need to think beyond the current culture. I always love an outcast - the person who can never be a part of his/her modern world due to his/her differences.  In a book where race sets who belongs where, it is interesting to see a character like Miss Celia.  She is a white woman married to a rich white man, but her hillbilly status puts her on the edge of Southern society.  She knows a thing or two about being a pariah, which makes Miss Celia and Minny such a great pair.  Minny has the attitude, but Miss Celia manages to steal some of the scenes with her ridiculous hair, accent, and questions.  I wish Stockett could write another book about the lasting friendship between Miss Celia and Minny.


The Help is a great story of what happens when a nation is ready to grow up.  You have the ones ready for change like Miss Skeeter, but lack the clue to what needs to be changed.  Skeeter gets a great lesson from Aibileen and Minny about what (or who) is at stake when these times need a-changing.  And Miss Celia is here to tell us that sometimes, when change is a long time coming, a little kindness goes a long way.
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