March 4, 2011


PREFACE TO THIS POST: I made a list in December. #1 on the list was to be a better blogger, and I have MORE than failed that one already, and we're just a few days into March. In an effort to get back on the saddle and make a real effort to blog, I've decided to dedicate some space to another number on that official list. #3 is one I'm actually doing OK with so far; it is, quite simply, to read more books.  "On the Bookshelf" will be a series of blog posts I will write periodically, with my thoughts on books I've read.  This is mostly to keep track of what I've read throughout the year, and to make me feel like I'm actually sticking to a resolution :)  But, maybe someone will pick up one of these books some time after reading these too.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help was technically the 4th book I’ve read this year, but the first I’ve decided to start this series of blog posts with. I knew about half way through it that if I was going to “review” the books I read, this is the one that I'd begin with.

I read the ENTIRE book on my iPhone using the Kindle app. It took forever to read this way, but that in itself should attest to how hard it was to put it down, and how obsessed I became with it. I have my phone with me just about everywhere I go, and so, the book technically went with me everywhere too.

I was completely wrapped up in it, drawn to each of the three narrators of the book, feeling like I wanted to reach through the pages (or iPhone screen in my case) and give them each a hug. I laughed, I cried, I recounted chapters of the story to my husband as if we had to do something about what was going on in whatever section of the book I was reading. I’m sure he thought I was nuts. At some point in the story, it began to hit home, and I have been beside myself since.

Set in the early 1960s, during the climb of civil rights movements in the U.S., it portrays the lives of 3 women in the deep South - two African-American domestic workers and one Caucasian woman who dreams of being a writer. Stockett does a remarkable job transitioning between perspectives and clearly establishing an important message throughout the book. It’s a heartstring tugger, and I found myself still reeling from the emotional high I was on after I finished it.

Growing up, my grandparents and parents hired domestic workers from Fiji who worked in our homes doing housework and cooking and caring for the children. Reading The Help took me back to my childhood various times in the book. While it wasn't nearly the same dynamic between my family and the women who worked for us, as it was between southern Caucasian families and their hired help in the 1960’s, there was still this onset of memories and emotions, as I felt like I could relate to the story sometimes.

In 1981, Naomi Bituroqoiwasa, who I affectionately called “Omzie,” came to work for my grandparents. I was born the following year, and my entire childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood are filled with memories of her. She passed away 5 years ago this May, and I miss her more than I have words to describe. She was simply another mother to me, who cared for me and had such an important hand in raising me.  She never had children of her own, but I have no doubt in my mind that she loved me, my siblings, and my cousins as if we were hers.  I wish my own children could’ve known her.  Like a character in The Help, I hope and pray that I thanked her enough, that she knows how grateful I am to her and how much she’ll always, always mean to me. 

Some of my cousins, brothers and I, and our last picture with her, taken in February 2006 in American Samoa.  She passed away 3 months later.


Jessica said...

This is so touching...I teared up reading your story :) I feel the same way about my grandpa. He died 8 years ago this month and I always wonder if he knew how much I loved him and appreciated him. I know I didn't tell him enough. Now I'm going to cry!

You have a beautiful family!

OMI said...

Pua, I'm so glad that you read this. It's so funny. I get so wrapped up in the story and the way it moves me. I forget that the story itself is able to do that to everyone intimately. I love your story! I'm so intrigued that you were a little Mae Mobley with a nicer momma! LOVE YOU

sepa said...

thanks for this, pua. so glad you have beautiful memories of your time with omzie. xox

violetsky photo said...

Great read! Just from the picture, I can see the love that was shared between your family and Omzie :)