Eudora Welty's Jackson: 'The Help' In Context In its first weekend, The Help grossed $2.5 million. But author W. Ralph Eubanks recommends Eudora Welty's "Where Is the Voice Coming From?", featured in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty to show the full picture of a racially charged decade.


Eudora Welty's Jackson: 'The Help' In Context

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The movie "The Help" and the bestselling book it's based on have divided critics and audiences. Some say "The Help" offers an overly sanitized image of civil rights era Mississippi. Well, writer Ralph Eubanks is from Mississippi, and for readers and viewers of "The Help," he recommends another work of fiction that illuminates what was happening at the time. It comes from a great chronicler of the American South, Eudora Welty.

RALPH EUBANKS: Published in The New Yorker, "Where Is the Voice Coming From?" tells the story of the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers from the point of view of the assailant. Welty wrote the story the same night she heard of Evers' murder. It occurred to her that she knew what was going on in the mind of the man who pulled the trigger. She knew because she had lived all of her life where it happened. It was the strangest feeling of horror and compulsion all in one, Welty commented in an interview almost 10 years later. I just meant by the title that whoever was speaking, I, the writer, knew what the murderer must be saying and why. The result is a masterpiece of short fiction.

BLOCK: As you read the closing line, you know she's captured life in Mississippi as it existed then. "The Help" does the same thing but with few hints of darkness. Whether or not you like "The Help's" optimistic tone, read "Where Is the Voice Coming From?" to fill in a piece of the story that's missing from the minute the credits begin to roll.

BLOCK: Ralph Eubanks is director of publishing at the Library of Congress, and he's the author of "The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South."

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