Last week, I posted about our January 10 meeting in which we’ll be discussing “The Help,” both the movie and the book, including the controversies surrounding both. Earlier this year, Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry came out with a book called “Sister Citizen” that will add some depth to this conversation.
In her review for the San Francisco Chronicle, Tayari Jones explains why:
Perhaps because of the timing of the publication, there is a 500-pound pop-culture gorilla in the room that does not make it into the text: the blockbuster film “The Help.” Harris-Perry’s Twitter followers and viewers of MSNBC were witnesses to her outrage over the depiction of black women who worked as maids in the Jim Crow South. On television and in the twitterverse, she decried the lack of historical context in the feel-good film. She also argued that the way that black women see themselves was not truly addressed.
If this is the case, “Sister Citizen” serves as an antidote to “The Help.” In her discussion of the Mammy stereotype, Harris-Perry provides a particularly astute analysis of why the enduring image is so offensive. Unlike the loud-mouthed Sapphire and promiscuous Jezebel, Mammy embodies many positive attributes — she is kind, nurturing and capable in the kitchen. Indeed, many of the women in Harris-Perry’s study embrace these characteristics. What they reject is the idea that these traits that they so value about themselves are seen as benefits for families not their own.
While you’re penciling in the Jan. 10 book club into your calendar (7 p.m. at Thrice Cafe, 909 W. Mary St.), mark down an event at 7 p.m. on January 20 at BookPeople with Elizabeth Engelhardt, who recently wrote a book about gender in the South called “A Mess of Greens.” Edible Austin is sponsoring the event, which means there will be yummy things to nibble on and sip while Engelhardt discusses her book with fellow feminist foodies Carol Ann Sayle of Boggy Creek Farm and Stephanie McClenny of Confituras. Hope to see you there!