What lines divide us? Who put them there? What happens if you step across? Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help challenges readers to think about that.
Stockett takes us back to Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s, a time when white women hired black women to clean their houses, cook their food, raise their children. But would not allow them to use the same toilets because, they believed, these same black women carried diseases they would surely spread.
In The Help, we see the lines that were drawn by Jim Crow legislation and the desire or need for white people to see themselves as better than black people. Lines that were crossed only at great peril.
Growing up in the Midwest, I didn't experience segregation firsthand. But reading this book makes it a short step to thinking about the lines we draw between ourselves and others - whether those others are old or handicapped or black or Muslim or gay or Republican or Democrat.
Stockett says her favorite line in the book is: We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I thought. She says this is the point of the book. The point she hopes readers will realize.