The Help – Reflection by Venessa Bowers

I recently finished reading the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett. While I’ll admit I’m a bit late on my popular reading, I will also admit that is was by far one of the most reflective books I’ve read in a long while.


Here’s a point of clarification: I am not a white woman from the South and my family never had an African American maid. I am however a white woman who grew up in the inner city and was exposed to some of the worst race relationships one can see as a child. In the text of the book, I recognized so many facets of my own life – I identified with Mae Mobley who struggled with her identity, I saw myself in Minny, the sass-talking maid who got even with a woman bent on making her life a living hell, I saw myself in Miss Skeeter, the woman who wanted to be a writer and took a huge risk to do it.

And, while I saw myself in these characters, I also saw what being around women of color has meant in my own life. I can say without hesitation that the women who have taught me more, loved me best, and embraced my “otherness” were women of color. They were NEVER white women. It occurred to me that my teachers were the women in the street – Miss Emma who hollered at me one morning for daydreaming and walking past her without speaking. “Girl, did I spend the night at yo house lass night? Because I sho enough know I didn’t and that makes you not finding the sense to speak to me a ridiculous thing.” Her point.  Or Missus Lawrence – “Girl, you got to pick those dead leaves offa that plant if you want it to grow. Matta a  fact, you need to pick the dead out your head if you want to grow.”

I was always shocked by these older women who seemed to understand that my whiteness might be a barrier to being a human being. So they taught me.  And it’s interesting to me that I  was never called “Miss Venessa” like the white women in the book, but that I called them Miss or Missus, always. I would sit on the step and chat with these women – watch them holler after other kids in the street and tell them all kinds of hilarious things – think Madea before Madea. These ladies were never afraid to tell people what the shot was. But they did it from a place of love and that’s what I was reminded of in reading this book.

So, if you read the book or plan to, do it now. Look and see if you’re one of the people in the story. Look inside and see who loved you best and how you can honor those people today. Miss Emma and Missus Lawrence have long passed – but I think about what they had to say and how they lived. I know that I am better for their presence in my life. I try to do right in my life because that is what they would expect from me, and no less. They helped turn this white child into a human being.


1 comment so far

  1. Harold P. Donle (Butch) on

    Venessa you are one of the best people I’ve ever known. And you grew up ok too. nice writing, nice thoughts. Too bad the people that really need to see it never will.

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