THE HELP Author Sued by Family Maid

Kathryn Stockett, author of the bestselling novel The Help, is facing a lawsuit from an unexpected source: her older brother’s longtime maid. Apparently, sixty-year-old Ablene Cooper sees more than a few similarities between herself and one of the book’s main characters, Aibileen Clark. Like the fictitious Aibileen, Ablene Cooper is an African American woman working as a maid for a white family in Jackson, Mississippi. Other parallels between the two include the death of a grown son, a gold tooth, and the nickname Aibee.

According to the lawsuit, Kathryn Stockett was “asked not to use the name and likeness of Ablene” before The Help was published. Cooper is embarrassed by Aibileen’s portrayal in the book and is seeking $75,000 in damages.

For her part, Stockett has always stated that Demetrie, the maid she had while growing up during the 1970s, was the inspiration for Aibileen. However, there were signs of trouble before this. According to the New York Times:

[Stockett] said that “The Help” was coolly received by some in her hometown. “Not everybody in Jackson, Mississippi’s thrilled,” she told Katie Couric of CBS News last year, acknowledging that a few “close family members” were so unhappy that they were not talking to her.

I think it’s worth noting that the Aibileen character in The Help is portrayed in an overwhelming positive way. The woman is practically a saint: she’s kind, loving, patient, smart, and brave. The villains of the books are several of the white women who treat the black maids they employ terribly. However, many people have taken issue with Stockett’s decision to write the maids’ voices in a thick dialect. In this interview with Time, the author herself wonders if she should have written the language differently.

So what do you think about this lawsuit? Would you be embarrassed to find yourself written into a bestselling book?

Follow me on Twitter @kristendaemons

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