Well apparently it isn't. In a story from the Sun Herald today, Katheryn Stockett was under fire for her character Aibilene in her blockbuster book "The Help". I can hardly wait to read this book which is a story about the relationships between the white families and their black maids back in the 1960s. It was an era of women breaking out of the tight cocoon of working in the home to work outside the home. Since Stockett grew up with being cared for by a black maid, I know she got it right.
I grew up being looked after by a sweet woman named Betty, and then there was Floe who took the time to put our hair in a French twist so we could pretend to be Miss America in the baking, summer heat. I can't say enough good things about these women who looked after kids not their own, did washing, cooked, cleaned houses and then went home at 5:30 pm to do it all over again for their own families. That is such a hard life. But, we kids loved them for it. We loved the way they cooked and learned a lot from the way they thought and talked.
For us, it wasn't such a shock when desegregation began. We could understand what the black kids were saying; and we understood their culture. Oh, there were times when it was a bit tense, but most of the time we just let people be people and thought more about winning football games than the color of skin. That was then and this is now.
This story by Holbrook Mohr, (by the way--really, sir, I am not picking on you!) hit a raw nerve in me today. This Ableen Cooper brought a law suit against Stockett that claimed Stockett based her character Aibilene on herself. Cooper was Stockett's brother's maid and even kept Stockett's child. The judge threw out the suit because the statute of limitations had run out since Stockett had given the woman her book to read in 2009 along with a letter stating the character's name was similar but the character was not at all based on Ableen but on her own child carer, Demetrie.
How can someone be so blatantly self-absorbed to believe because a character has a similar name, it is based upon her? This is a lesson children, those of you who are writers and desirous of writing. Make sure your character development is broad enough it could be anyone, and specific enough to be individualized. That should be easy, right?
Next we will be having to copyright our blog posts, and setting up firewalls for the copy- stealers to hack. The question is, do we have exclusive rights to our personality?