Be “THE HELP” by Kathryn Stockett

by Angie Hilbert
( January 19th, 2015 )

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett has been around for a while. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and get a copy. It’s just as good now as it was when everyone was reading it in their book clubs and talking about it on TV. I gave it a re-read recently since Martin Luther King Day and the Columbus to Ferguson march had me thinking a lot about civil rights and how far we’ve come since the 60’s.

The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s and it includes one of my least favorite tropes—the writer as protagonist. Once you get through the obligatory “how hard it is to get published” cliché the real plot sneaks in and takes over. Instead of just being about another writer finding her voice (and a publisher) it becomes about voices used to being silenced speaking up and telling their story.

We (and by “we” I mean people pale enough not to not be confronted by it every day of their lives) like to pretend that racism and prejudice is behind us. But I would argue that in spite of fifty years of civil rights progress we still institutionalize and perpetuate many forms of racism.

“Do you ever wish you could… change things?”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

In The Help, Skeeter co-authors and curates a collection of stories from the lives of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. While the stories expose cruel and racist practices, the do far more than that. For most of the women, it is the first time anyone ever listened to them. It’s not about the racist culture of 1960 Jackson, that’s just the setting. It’s about creative, dynamic, loving, hating, striving women—women that have been unheard and silenced too long.

“....we ain’t doing civil rights here. We just telling stories like they really happen.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Columbus to FergusonA few weeks ago, I had another opportunity to hear stories like this. I attended and marched in the Columbus to Ferguson demonstration and protest. While Columbus, Ohio today is not nearly as racist as Jackson, Mississippi in 1960, there were still some uncomfortable similarities.

“...I want to speak!”
― Activist, Columbus to Ferguson demonstration

Before the March to the Columbus Police Headquarters, we met and organized at Goodale Park. There, protestors took turns sharing their stories of what it was like to be black in Columbus. There were many white allies at the rally too, but organizers requested that those voices, traditionally ignored or silenced would have the floor this evening. It was a beautiful demonstration of how important it is to listen to someone’s story and not assume you know what it is like for someone else.


“...I want to read what you’re thinking.”
― Kathryn Stockett, The Help

still marching 50 years later

I would encourage white allies to re-read The Help then use it’s example to be the help. Perhaps the best way to finally overcome racism and prejudice is to follow Kathryn Stockett’s example in The Help and provide a platform for people to tell their stories. More importantly, to seek out and listen to those stories. Education, explanation, and advocacy will only ever take us so far. Perhaps we have already come as far as we can that way. To really make it. To make racism and prejudice a thing of the past, we must listen to the stories of others.

Read ~ Write ~ Wander


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Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding

by Angie Hilbert
( December 30th, 2014 )

Painter of SilenceHere is something for wander-writers to ponder: What if you had no words to think with or communicate? What if you had to tell your stories in pictures and facial expressions? What if you had no language? Could you even write about someone in this predicament? Georgina Harding did in her novel, Painter of Silence.

Painter of Silence is told from the point of view of Safta, young Romanian woman and Tinu, the son of one of her family’s servants. The two do not share a romantic bond, but have been friends their entire lives. They understand one another. Which is surprising since the man was a deaf-mute from birth with no understanding of functional language. Words mean nothing when letters have no sound. They are only shapes. Tinu’s only language is art.

Luckily, Georgina Harding is a beautifully visual writer. Her prose waxes lyrical and is the kind of languid reading you savor on long winter nights. It’s not a quick read. It’s a deep and absorbing read. The characters soak into you and haunt you they way they do when you look at a master-painting.

What wander-readers will love:

There are many WWII stories told from German, British, French, and American points of view. This is the first novel I’ve ever read about the great war told from a Romanian perspective. Painter of Silence was a unique look at a story I though was already well-explored in literature. Seeing how the war affected Romanian lives and landscapes was stunning. When it’s experienced through the eyes of a man with no way of understanding what what was happening or what it meant was deeply moving.

Read ~ Write ~ Wander




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The Fit Desk Gives “Desk Jockey” a Whole New Meaning!

by Angie Hilbert
( December 21st, 2014 )

The Fit Desk seemed too good to be true. Could there really be a way to move and write at the same time?

FitDeskReview from Angie Hilbert on Vimeo.

I first saw the Fit Desk on a co-worker’s Facebook page. Mary had just gotten one and was singing it’s praises. One look and I knew this could be my solution!

I hate the gym. It’s full of weird smells and harsh sounds. I hate the whine of a dozen treadmills, the clank of weight machines, that stressful “power” music they always play. I forced myself to go but I plugged in earphones with my audio books playing. Even then, I had to turn it up unpleasantly loud just to hear my narrator over the annoying gym-din. I knew I had to exercise, but it was unpleasant, stressful, and I always felt like I was wasting good time I could have spent writing. I resented my body’s need for exercise. Exercise took me away from the activities I loved and found meaningful. You know, sedentary activities like reading, writing, and watching Doctor Who.

I looked closer at the picture. The Fit Desk looked like an exercise bike, but instead of handlebars, there was an arm rest and a platform for a lap top computer. A quick exchange of messages and I discover it carries the budget-friendly price of $299 (even more budget friendly when I took advantage of my employer’s $200 fitness spending reimbursement program!)

I ordered one.

Putting it together was not that difficult. It took me one hour and six minutes from laying out the pieces to taking my first ride. I even put it together all by myself. The instructions were perfectly clear and easy to follow.

There is a little drawer under the desk top. Mine arrived broken but a short correspondence with the manufacturer and a new one was on it’s way with no trouble. It arrived in two days. I use it to store the assembly tools for minor adjustments. I keep the pedals tight and adjust the back rest for comfort and posture. I found my tender bottom got a little saddle sore so I added a gel seat cover. Now I can sit on the Fit Desk off and on all day long (and do!)

I have been using the Fit Desk daily for over a month now. I ‘m writing this post on it! The spinners whisper as I ride in the comfort of my own home. I don’t need to put on special work-our cloths. I just hop on.

I ride casually when writing. I keep a light resistance on setting “3 – 4” and just keep moving. When I watch my TV programs (don’t judge me! I only watch shows by screenwriters I admire.) I turn up the resistance setting and use the included resistance bands. (Commercials are for sprints.)

The Fit Desk brings motion into the long sedentary stretches in my day. It’s not just a delightful fitness product, the company has a big heart. For every 10 reviews customers post, they donate a Fit Desk to a local school! So if you get one (and if you spend a lot of time at the computer, you really should) don’t forget to post a review!

I admit, it feels good to move but it feels great to not have to sacrifice my creative time to mindless exercise. I am a thrilled and satisfied Fit Desk jockey!

So… all my sedentary literary friends: How you address your fitness needs?

Read ~ Write ~ Wander


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