Kathryn “Kitty” Stockett is a fiction writer who was born in Jackson, Mississippi, on 6 February 1969. Stockett graduated from Jackson Preparatory School and the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she received degrees in creative writing and English.
In 2009 Amy Einhorn Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA), published Stockett’s first novel, The Help, which reached No. 1 on the New York Times best seller list. Set in the early 1960s, the novel uses the voices of three women to expose relationships among African American maids and their white female employers. By interweaving multiple stories, the book addresses issues of class, religion, racial segregation, child care, and employment opportunities for white and black women. An early issue revolves around one character’s attempt to pass a law mandating separate bathrooms for African American employees. Above all, the book addresses the difficulties of communication: as the young white woman, Skeeter, tries to break through divisions based on race and class to understand “the help,” one maid, Aibileen, looks for an outlet to express herself, and another maid, Minny, deals with her own outspokenness. Much of the book’s drama lies in Skeeter’s effort to complete a book, Help, of narratives by maids.
While Stockett’s book proved extremely popular, she provoked controversy with her use of black vernacular dialogue. Some readers and critics disdained her use of the “black voice” and accused her of creating characters based on real people. In February 2011 Ablene Cooper, who had worked as a maid for Stockett’s brother, filed a lawsuit in the Hinds County Circuit Court, claiming that Stockett based Aibileen on Cooper. Stockett denied the charge, and the court dismissed the case in August 2011 because the statute of limitations had expired.
Also in 2011, a film version of The Help, directed by Tate Taylor, was released. It received good reviews and was nominated for four Academy Awards, with Octavia Spencer taking home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
Stockett resides in Atlanta.
- Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam website, http://us.penguingroup.com
- Jerry Mitchell, Jackson Clarion-Ledger (17 February 2011)
- Kathryn Stockett website, www.kathrynstockett.com