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Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help,” sued by former family employee

buzzstockett0112.jpgAtlanta resident Kathryn Stockett, author of the phenomenally popular book “The Help,” has been sued by a woman who says the book humiliated her, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Ablene Cooper, a former baby sitter for Stockett’s family, filed suit in Jackson, Miss., seeking damages of $75,000, the Journal reported. The suit claims Cooper was the basis for a character  in the book, a maid named Abileeen.

Stockett did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment. The AJC has contacted her as well seeking comment.

In past interviews with the AJC, Stockett has said she wrote “The Help” as part of a writing club. She used names of people she knew simply because they were handy, she said.

“When I was writing this book, I never thought anyone else would read it, so I didn’t get real creative with the names,” Stockett told us in 2009. “I just used people I knew. Some of them aren’t talking to me right now, but I feel like they’ll come around.”

She has repeatedly called the book, which has been adapted into a film, a work of fiction.

“I wrote it purely for me and finally had the guts to show it to my mother and my writing group, ” Stockett told us in the 2009 interview. “I was terrified when I realized it was going to be published.”

Stockett has said she drew the most inspiration from her family’s maid, a loving woman named Demetrie, who helped raise her. Some of Stockett’s distant relatives objected to parts of the book, in which some of the town’s wealthy white women install separate toilets in their homes for their African-American domestic employees or loll by the pool at their segregated country club while maids sweat in their uniforms.

“The only time I ever saw Demetrie out of her white uniform was when she was in the casket,” an emotional Stockett said during a 2010 interview with Katie Couric. The concludes with a tribute to Demetrie.

Cooper’s lawsuit said she was the basis for the character, and that it reflected negatively on her, the Journal reported.

“It has been emotionally upsetting and is highly offensive to [Ms. Cooper] to be falsely portrayed in” the book, the lawsuit says.

- Jennifer Brett/The Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

5 comments Add your comment

Linda

February 21st, 2011
9:22 pm

I read this wonderful book and I cannot understand why any of the black women would feel humiliated by the story. I can see why the white women of that time should be hanging their heads in shame.

JRP

February 22nd, 2011
9:42 am

I am in full agreement with Linda.

cara

February 22nd, 2011
10:12 am

You’re not black and that is why you have no idea how this woman feels.

Zoe

February 22nd, 2011
12:46 pm

Is everything that happens (may it be books, movies, everyday life) in this country tainted by unbalanced and/or unfair race relations? How old and enlightened do we have to get before we can move on? Constant stirring of the race pot does not improve relations.

angela williams

February 23rd, 2011
1:44 pm

I have just started reading The Help and find it quite interesting that a white woman thinks she knows what it feels like to be black women in America. At least it’s more realistic then The Secret Life of Bees.