Kathryn Stockett's multifaceted first novel "The Help" explores race relations in Jackson, Mississippi during the sixties. Similar themes abound in these moving and often timeless stories.
We are All Welcome Here. 2006
It is the summer of 1964. In Tupelo, Mississippi, the town of Elvis’s birth, tensions are mounting over civil-rights demonstrations occurring ever more frequently–and violently–across the state. But in Paige Dunn’s small, ramshackle house, there are more immediate concerns. Challenged by the effects of the polio she contracted during her last month of pregnancy, Paige is nonetheless determined to live as normal a life as possible and to raise her daughter, Diana, in the way she sees fit–with the support of her tough-talking black caregiver, Peacie.
A Long Way from Home. 1999
A black woman's story, from slavery to freedom. She is Clara whose mother was a maid for President Madison. When he dies Clara is sold along with other chattels and the novel follows her ups and downs before and after the Civil War.
Catfish Alley. 2011
A moving debut novel about female friendship, endurance, and hope in the South. Roxanne Reeves defines her life by the committees she heads and the social status she cultivates. But she is keeping secrets that make her an outsider in her own town, always in search of acceptance. And when she is given a job none of the other white women want-researching the town's African-American history for a tour of local sites-she feels she can't say no. Elderly Grace Clark, a retired black schoolteacher, reluctantly agrees to become Roxanne's guide. Grace takes Roxanne to Catfish Alley, whose undistinguished structures are nonetheless sacred places to the black community because of what happened there. As Roxanne listens to Grace's stories, and meets her friends, she begins to see differently. She is transported back to the past, especially to 1931, when a racist's hatred for Grace's brother leads to events that continue to change lives decades later. And as Roxanne gains an appreciation of the dreams, courage, and endurance of those she had so easily dismissed, her own life opens up in new and unexpected ways.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. 1997
Gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode tells her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern cafe offering good barbecue, good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and the reader--will never be quite the same again.
Gaines, Ernest J.
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. 1972
Originally published in 1971, this novel spans 100 years of American history--from the early 1860s to the onset of the civil rights movement in the 1960s--in following the life of the elderly Jane Pittman, who witnessed those turbulent years.
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt. 2010
Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom. Laugh-out-loud funny, Hoffman's charming work offers the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others.
Prejudice takes many forms, both subtle and brutal. It is 1946, and city-bred Laura McAllan is trying to raise her children on her husband's Mississippi Delta farm, a place she finds foreign and frightening. In the midst of the family's struggles, two young men return from the war to work the land. Jamie McAllan, Laura's brother-in-law, is everything her husband is not, charming, handsome, and haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black sharecroppers who live on the McAllan farm, has come home with the shine of a war hero. But no matter his bravery in defense of his country, he is still considered less than a man in the Jim Crow South. It is the unlikely friendship of these brothers-in-arms that drives this powerful novel to its inexorable conclusion.
Kidd, Sue Monk
The Secret Life of Bees. 2002
Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily's fierce-hearted "stand-in mother," Rosaleen, insults three of the town's fiercest racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina, a town that holds the secret to her mother's past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna who presides over their household.
To Kill a Mockingbird. 2006
Harper Lee's classic novel of a lawyer in the Deep South defending a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie.
Mayhew, Anna Jean
The Dry Grass of August. 2011
In 1954, 13-year-old Jubie, traveling with her family and her family's black maid Mary Luther--who has always been there for her, making up for her father's rages and her mother's neglect--encounters racial tension and tragedy.
The Member of the Wedding. 2004
Twelve-year-old Frankie is utterly, hopelessly bored with life until she hears about her older brother's wedding. Bolstered by lively conversations with her house servant, Berenice, and her six-year-old male cousin, not to mention her own unbridled imagination, Frankie takes on an overly active role in the wedding, hoping even to go, uninvited, on the honeymoon, so deep is her desire to be the member of something larger, more accepting than herself.
In clear, dark, resonant language, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison brilliantly evokes not only a bond between two lives, but the harsh, loveless, ultimately mad world in which that bond is destroyed, the world of the Bottom and its people.
Naslund, Sena Jeter
Four Spirits. 2003
Gender, race, and racial attitudes span the spectrum as Naslund embeds personal stories--individuals' needs, goals, and frustrations--within the overall context of the country's changing climate in Alabama in the early 1960s.
Freshwater Road. 2005
When University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree travels to Mississippi to volunteer with the Civil Rights movement, she is assigned to help register voters in the already infamous town of Pineyville. While Celeste befriends several members of the community, there are also those who are threatened by her and the change she represents.
Tawawa House in many respects is like any other American resort before the Civil War. Situated in Ohio, this idyllic retreat is particularly nice in the summer when the Southern humidity is too much to bear. It provides more privacy, which best suits the needs of the Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their black, enslaved mistresses. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are regulars at Tawawa House. They have become friends over the years as they reunite and share developments in their own lives and on their respective plantations. They don't bother too much with questions of freedom, though the resort is situated in free territory, but when truth-telling Mawu comes to the resort and starts talking of running away, things change.
After her father dies within hours of being married to a white woman, a ten-year-old black girl learns with her new mother to overcome grief and to adjust to a new place in their rural black South Carolina community.
Her Own Place. 1993
This novel chronicles the transformation of rural South Carolina through racial integration. Sanders subtly shows Mae Lee's life to be richer than that of the wealthy white woman she so admired during her early years.
The Color Purple. 1992
This 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of Celie, an uneducated and abused black woman, as she struggles for empowerment during the 1930s.
Montana 1948. 1993
“From the summer of my twelfth year I carry a series of images more vivid and lasting than any others of my boyhood and indelible beyond all attempts the years make to erase or fade them… “ So begins David Hayden’s story of what happened in Montana in 1948. The events of that cataclysmic summer permanently alter twelve-year-old David’s understanding of his family: his father, a small-town sheriff; his remarkably strong mother; David’s uncle Frank, a war hero and respected doctor; and the Haydens’ Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations turn the family’s life upside down as she relates how Frank has been molesting his female Indian patients. As their story unravels around David, he learns that truth is not what one believes it to be, that power is abused, and that sometimes one has to choose between family loyalty and justice.
Oshkosh Public Library