Viola Davis - Best Actress

Yesterday, I watched an enlightening interview with Viola Davis on Charlie Rose. Viola was speaking on her career and in particular The Help.

I read the book exactly two years ago. There was much rumbling among black writers about this book. Understandably, so. As a black writer publishers will only market my book to African-Americans. Not just because I’m black but they don’t think white people would be interested in reading about the lives of my black characters. But then a white woman writes a book about black women and the publisher markets her book to the masses. I guess the lives of black folks are far more interesting when a white person writes about it. But what’s new, right?

There were many things about the book that disturbed me. Like the fact that the maids had no life outside of work, could not conjugate verbs, did not have a sex drive and Aibleen had no family. What black person in the south has NO family? These were the white writer’s distorted views about blacks. Nevertheless I enjoyed this book. It kept my attention and kept me turning the pages. I could not put it down.

But the idea of a movie scared me. I was doubly confused by Viola Davis taking on such a role. But having watched her interview yesterday, I get it. Her grandmother and her mother were maids. Her mother has an 8th grade education, her father a 5th. Like the author of The Help, Kathryn Stockett, Viola had been raised by maids. She had a well rounded view of what it meant to be a maid and didn’t see Aibleen as narrowly as I had. She saw her lineage and her own life. She saw her opportunity to make a difference. If anyone could bring dignity and integrity to this role, she could. And she did. Surprisingly I enjoyed the movie as much as the book.

On Thursday Viola Davis was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress for her role in The Help. Congratulations, Viola! You’re breaking down doors and walking through!

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