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When you’re reading a book “based on true events,” do you read it differently than a purely fiction novel? I do. I didn’t realize how much it changed the experience for me until I started reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I’ve seen the movie and I don’t know where I got this, but I thought the book was the book they were writing during the movie, the one that’s a collection of stories from the maids. Needless to say, I was rather confused when it changed to Skeeter’s point of view, but I guess I should back up to make sure everyone is on the same page.

The Help is a novel based in the Deep South not long after the civil war. The lead characters are a wanna-be journalist (read white female college graduate) who is told to write about something that bothers her, but no one else. She gets it in her head to interview maids (read black women cleaning white women’s homes and taking care of white babies in Jackson, Mississippi) and tell their story.

Again, I don’t know where I got confused because the synopsis makes it clear, “Stockett creates three extraordinary women.” Suddenly my bubble was burst. What I was enjoying about the novel falls flat. These are no longer clever and brave women, they are puppets of the author. I’m no longer gripped by their fear because it is no longer real to me. And yet, I when I read Ready Player One, I was impressed by the character’s cajones. Though I knew the book was fiction, those characters were flesh and blood, their bravery became real in the story. Their desires, weaknesses, and rational grip me to the point of laughter or tears.

So why can I fall in love with the characters in Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, but the women in The Help have become lifeless words on paper. I’m not sure. I think it was because I thought they were real then found out they weren’t rather than suspending disbeleif from the beginning and allowing myself to become lost in the story.

I was wondering if any of you experienced something similar or have a different diagnosis.