Comparing Yo! And The Help: How Authors Use Their Styles to Teach American Culture Paul Pittman
This essay is being submitted on June 18th, 2013, for Dr. Candy Henry’s G435 Literature of American Minorities course.
The cultural history of America includes much more than what our history books teach us. In fact, it is not until you open books and read stories written by those who have experienced the undisclosed elements of America’s past do you begin to understand how we as a country have developed. Two such stories are Julia Alvarez’s Yo! And Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. But it takes more than a good storyline to bring the past to life. The storyteller must be able to convey the emotion and experiences to the reader in such a way that they understand and feel the emotions that were happening. The writer needs to have a firm background in the past with a flair of relating the experiences to the future. In this paper, we will take a look at both authors and how they use their education and past experiences to tell their stories.
Comparing Yo! and The Help: How Authors Use Their Styles to Teach American Culture History’s most notable authors are those who helped to change how we as a society perceive the world we live in. Time and again, civilization has evolved towards a better understanding of human nature through the thoughts and words written in books. Though time itself will tell if Julia Alvarez can be compared to the likes of Charles Dickens or William Shakespeare, she has certainly won her share of acclaim already in the world of literature. Her ability to use stories to help us understand situations through the eyes of others as she sees them is a method that has been recognized by other authors as an effective means of communicating the trials and tribulations of cultures in history. In her novel Yo! (1997) Julia Alvarez relates the issues of the Latino community conforming to what is and is not accepted in American culture. Similarly, Kathryn Stockett used Alvarez’s style in an effort to bring about the struggles of African Americans during the Southern race wars in Mississippi in her book The Help (2009). By comparing Alvrez’s Yo with Stockett’s The Help, we as Americans tend to read these stories and without realizing that we are actually reading a part of American history, begin to understand the reasoning why these and others novels written in this manner have helped to bring the struggles of minorities in America. The Development of Julia Alvarez the Author
To begin to understand the style that Julia Alvarez uses to convey the subject matter within her stories in the novel Yo!, it is best to understand her as a person. What she experienced as a person dictated her life’s direction and as a result, it helped to form the way she writes. She writes stories in a way that put you the reader in the first person, as if you are watching the storyline unfold in front of you, much as you would a movie or television show. Perhaps this could be attributed to the generation that she grew up in. Like us, we were all raised in an era of watching stories being told from a particular person’s point of view on television and in the movies, but Alvarez’s stories are of life and the real lessons that her characters have experienced. Her own experiences began as a child through the involvement of her father, and indirectly her family’s involvement with the rebellion that began in the home country of her parents, the Dominican Republic. As a very young child, she was at ground zero while watching her family and other loved ones fight the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, only watch it fail as her family fled to New York in 1960 (Walker, 2012). This perhaps set the stage early for her to grow and mature quickly by having to adapt quickly to changes in her life, reacting to any development in the best way possible. It was her early years in school that began her...
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Donaldson-James, S. (2011, February 22). Black Maid Sues, Says 'The Help ' Is Humiliating [Newsgroup post]. Retrieved from ABC News website: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/lawsuit-black-maid-ablene-cooper-sues-author-kathryn/story?id=12968562#.UaVK7Z3D9Fo
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