Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Impact of Our Writing

On the way home from work today I heard an interview with a black historian discussing the book, THE HELP. Perhaps there are those of you who don't know the book, but it's set in the 60's and is about black housekeepers and one emerging feminist white college student. The setting is Jackson, Mississippi which parallels my own hometown of Mobile, Alabama in many ways.

I loved the book. I thought it was a treatise on the South during a certain era. What's more, having been a child in the late 60's and 70's, I felt like I not only knew the story but I knew those women, both the maids and their employers. I thought it portrayed both sides well, white and black. Apparently, because the author is white and it is being billed as a black woman's story, there's a bit of controversy surrounding it.

Which got me thinking, how much does an author consider the impact of her story? When writing fiction are we just spinning a fun yarn, or making comments on a broader world that might have implications in ways we never expected. In my current WIP, I have some themes about the world emerging. I'm still sorting them out, but I'm also just writing a good yarn. Is it subconscious and we aren't even aware of our intentions or is it intentional?

Food for thought on a Thursday evening commute by the river.


  1. People get offended too easily. I say let writers write. Let them tell their stories, and if you don't like it--don't read it.

    I loved THE HELP and I'm not so concerned with perfect historical accuracy. The book made me want to be a better person and to me that is all that matters.

  2. Yep, I kind of had that reaction when I heard this interview...sort of "'s a novel." But the interviewee was also talking about the wider impact of there now being a movie, etc. The part that bugged me the most was how she said the cadence and nuance of speech was wrong, and having grown up in the deep south - I thought the author hit it square on. Interestingly enough, several of the callers who called in to the show, were black women totally siding with the story and the author.


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