It is the true story of Sandra Laing, who was born in 1955 to white parents in South Africa. Born to white parents who were born to white parents and yet she, the lovely Sandra, was born with hair that kinked and skin that darkened and features that made her look far more like the “help” than the white tribe she was supposed to belong to. Perhaps because it is a true story it is far more convoluted than fiction, and beyond the predictable struggles comes others one might not expect. Her story is one of unimaginable hardship and incredible strength. It exposes the contradictions and depths of love and life, of race and parenthood, the complexities of relationships within families and with society in the context of a history whose image is repeated throughout history with different faces and different tongues, different landscapes and different labels yet is remarkably the same.
Sheepishly I confess that I may well be the only person on the planet who has neither read nor seen “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, which I’ve heard is similarly moving and important, albeit fictional. Don’t worry or exhort me in comments… I will, promise.
I often wait until the buzz slows and softens a bit before I dive into those books and movies that cause great stir. I am aware, though, of the story, and when I came across this on Maria Hinojosa’s facebook feed it resonated with me. Parallels abound.
Woke up reading The Help. What if we made the book about undocumented Latinos? What if we spoke to Mexican women who are maids and nannies? What if the Jim Crow laws were replaced by Arizona and Georgia laws that let police stop you & ask for your “papers”. What if the people who support these new laws could see themselves critically? Can they see that for The Help today nothing has changed? Would they make a movie about it, would they go see it? We need Help in this country now more than ever.