Friday, August 19, 2011

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett-A Study in Pre-Civil Rights Mississippi Women

Talk about rejection and redemption!  Kathryn Stockett, author of the bestselling book, and now highly successful movie, The Help, received 60 rejection letters over 3 and a half years—and still didn’t give up. Good thing she didn’t.

(Be sure to view the film's trailer at bottom of post.)

The Help is a rich treatise on growing up in Mississippi.  It is written from the perspective of a white woman from the South who writes from the viewpoint of African-American maids. 

The book deals with the complicated relationships between African-American domestic servants and the white women who employed them.  Set in pre-civil rights Mississippi, the book  has spent over 30 weeks on the New York Times' best-seller list.

In the author's own words:
...A few months later, I sent it to a few more agents. And received a few more rejections. Well, more like 15. I was a little less giddy this time, but I kept my chin up. “Maybe the next book will be the one,” a friend said. Next book? I wasn’t about to move on to the next one just because of a few stupid letters. I wanted to write this book.
A year and a half later, I opened my 40th rejection: “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” That one finally made me cry. “You have so much resolve, Kathryn,” a friend said to me. “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?”
That was a hard weekend. I spent it in pajamas, slothing around that racetrack of self-pity—you know the one, from sofa to chair to bed to refrigerator, starting over again on the sofa. But I couldn’t let go of The Help. Call it tenacity, call it resolve or call it what my husband calls it: stubbornness.
After rejection number 40, I started lying to my friends about what I did on the weekends. They were amazed by how many times a person could repaint her apartment. The truth was, I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read.
Aside from being an interesting vignette about a tenacious woman who believed in her story and wouldn't let go of that belief, it is also a cautionary tale for authors and authors-in-waiting.  We write from our hearts.  We write because we have to write.  And we receive rejections.  And that can be demoralizing.  But we  cannot give up on our dream.  We should not give up our dream.  Indeed, from Kathryn Stockett's amazing journey,  let's all take heart and laugh (at least, try to) in the face of "those letters."


  1. Thank you for this testimony! It has given me renewed vigor in my search for an agent.

  2. I think this is a post I should print out.
    Thanks, Nancy.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Ladies! I agree it is an inspiration after the arduous work of agent and/or publisher hunnting...

  4. This book should make a positive difference in the world and that wouldn't have happened if she had given up.