The movie The Help opens this month and is sure to be a huge success as was Kathryn Stockett’s book. The Help was voted The Friday Morning bookclub’s Favorite Book of 2009 and I am looking forward to seeing the movie. The opening of the movie has brought new attention to the law suit facing Stockett. 60-year-old Ablene Cooper, who worked as a nanny for Stockett’s brother, filed a lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, claiming that the character Aibileen Clark was based on her life. Yes, there are similarities. Both have a gold tooth, both lost a son to cancer and both were called Aibee by the children they cared for. According to many of the articles Kathryn Stockett’s brother Robert Stockett III is supporting Cooper, causing a huge family rift between sister and brother.
Here is Kathryn Stockett’s response which appeared in USA Today:
“The character ‘Aibileen Clark’ in The Help is a fictional character and is not intended to depict Mrs. Cooper. I’ve met Mrs. Cooper only briefly. I used the name ‘Aibileen’ because it resonated with ‘Constantine,’ the beloved woman who took care of the book’s main character in her youth. As readers of The Help know, my Aibileen is a true heroine: she is intelligent, an author, a devoted servant of the Lord and a good mother.”
Often I have heard authors recommend that you write about “what you know”, which is what Stockett was doing. I am sure that all authors “borrow” traits from real people and I wonder how often people see themselves in books. What do you think? As a writer, how much can you borrow from the people you know? If Ablene Cooper wins this case, how do you think it will affect future works of fiction?
Here are a couple of articles on the subject
If you haven’t read it yet, get The Help now!