Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Martha Southgate on The Help

Sometimes I will visit publisher sites to see if there's anything worth finding. Today I found my way to Algonquin Books. Author Martha Southgate's newest novel The Taste of Salt will be released at the end of September. I've had a chance to read it already. One the things I loved about it is the main characters very unexpected occupation. The writing is beautiful and many scenes broke my heart. Life is dramatic enough, the author doesn't use any tricks, simply letting it all unfold. There will be a proper review closer to the release date. Chapter One of The Taste of Salt

Though as the title states this is about Southgate on The Help. The author wrote a piece about bestselling novel turned movie by Kathryn Stockett in the most recent EW magazine.

"The current issue of Entertainment Weekly (August 12) has a wonderful cover story on The Help, the blockbuster book that was made into a movie, opening soon. As part of the photo-heavy spread, Entertainment Weekly asked Algonquin author Martha Southgate, whose new novel The Taste of Salt publishes 9/27, to write about the book. Her piece is below. Be sure to pick up a copy of the magazine–one of our favorites around here–on newsstands now."

Algonquin Books was kind enough to rerun Southgate's article, and it's worth reading. I do wonder when Southgate or any reader who thought they weren't going to read The Help changed their mind. What was the tipping point?

I am still firmly in the I will not read camp. I had many customers try to convince me otherwise but I won't budge. Part of the reason for this hard line in the sand has to do with working in a bookstore in the South and having White customers tell me every day I just must read The Help.

In my head, all I could think was no I don't. I refuse to believe the authenticity of Black voices created by a White author by White readers who don't read Black authors. These were my customers so I know what they read. Not a single White customer that requested The Help asked for a novel by a Black author.

Stockett's novel was liked by many of my Black customers as well. I was a bit more curious, but knowing that a Black author would never have this amount of success with the same story, I still can't bring myself to read The Help. Now I know how some Asian readers probably felt with the success of Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha.


Sarah Laurenson said...

I haven't read The Help yet either. My wife has and she loved it. Not sure why it isn't pulling me in, but I like your perspective on it. More for me to think about.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I totally agree with Martha Southgate about why The Help is cringeworthy but I totally disagree with the decision not to read it. Here's why: One of my heros is Saul Alinsky, who wrote, in Rules for Radicals, how to make change (specifically in favor of have-nots vis-a-vis haves). He starts out by the observation that you have got to know and understand the thinking of your adversary, so you know and understand how to combat that thinking (or at least manage to get what you want anyway). That's one reason I read a lot of YA vampire or chick lit romance stuff. I want to know what young girls are being fed by the media. I want to understand the appeal, and the mechanisms by which certain ideologies get perpetuated. Revisionist history is another area about which it seems so important, to me, to get a good idea about what's being said and what it *means* about society. Why are so many whites going ga-ga about The Help? Reading it aids in putting it into a context in which one can understand today's brand of revisionist racism. Yeah, I know there's limited time to read and why not read good stuff, but to me it's also extremely important to get a sense of just where we are historically, and what kind of polity it is in which we live. And if you're armed with information, maybe you CAN make a difference, on the margins at least....

Tea said...

Hope I remember to read your review. Thanks for an interesting entry not unusual.

tanita✿davis said...

My response, when MYRIAD people have suggested for me to read this has been, "And I want to read that why?"

I appreciate Rhaspody's comments, and it is for the reasons she states that I read the first of the Twilight books, but I remain unmoved - I'm not reading this one. I don't have to know what interests and ideas are being channeled to adults. They're on their own. ;)

Amy said...

I am definitely avoiding The Help too. No, no, no, no, no, that is all that I can say about it. Love that article, thanks for blogging about it.

Like Rhapsody I always think I should read these books to see why people like it and know the issues but, you know, sometimes it is too hard!

Doret said...

Sarah do you plan on seeing the movie?

Tea - You don't have to wait to read the first chapter of Taste of Salt

Tanita is The Help popular across the pond as well?

Jill - I agree with your point as to why I should read The Help. There are YA novels I read for just that reason. But this time I am with Amy, and I simply don't want to.

Ego Planet Now said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue on CNN this morning. I saw myself in you having a bone to pick about the "white protagonist". This weekend, I'll be taking a group of women on a girls nite out to see the movie: 3 white; 3 black with tapas after to dish about it. Will let you know what happens.

Sarah Laurenson said...

My wife and I hardly see any movies, so that's not a good barometer for me.

Haven't even seen the last Harry Potter yet, and I've been faithful to that franchise.

As far as movies go, I own The Long Walk Home. That's more my style when it comes to this subject matter. (Plus, I love Whoopi Goldberg.) Was that based on a book?

Ego Planet Now said...

It was great we had 6 AfAm women and 5 white women for the film and tapas afterwards. We laughed and cried. It was more of a feel-good movie for the AfAm women as the white women felt guilty about how inhumanely their foremothers behaved toward ours. We hashed out each subplot and re-emerged as we went: 11 women who choose to live & see the beautiful truth of life for what it is.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I've been thinking on this one a lot especially since it's been recommended to me (both book and movie) quite a bit lately. I think Socioeconomic/Class divisions are where my strongest feelings lie and I do not find humor in them.

I have trouble with something that I see making light of a serious situation. Now that's my condemning this book/movie without looking into it at all and that's not good either.

The Hunger Games is one of my favorite books these days because it portrays the class differences that I can see in our current society. There is a huge divide between the haves and the have nots and it's getting deeper. We get our nightly dose of "entertainment" watching the news that focuses on those who are trying to survive and what effects that has on their lives.

But since I have not read The Help, I do not know if it has merit.