Nanny Sues The Help Author
Kathryn Stockett turned her into character, says brother's nanny
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2011 3:26 AM CST
"This is a beautifully written work of fiction and we don't think there is any basis to the legal claims," Cooper's publisher says.   (AP Photo/Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam)

(Newser) – Author Kathryn Stockett's best-seller The Help borrows a little too heavily from real life and from one life in particular, according to a nanny suing the author. Ablene Cooper says the book's character "Aibeleen"—who, like her, is a middle-aged black nanny with a gold tooth whose son died before she started working for her employers—is based on her and she finds the portrayal humiliating, ABC News reports. Cooper works for Stockett's brother, who has taken the nanny's side in the dispute.

"Ain’t too many Ablenes," says Cooper. She is seeking $75,000 from Stockett and says she asked the author not to use her name or likeness. The lawsuit doesn't request punitive damages or attorneys' fees. Stockett ignored the request, despite knowing that doing so would be "emotionally upsetting and highly offensive to Ablene," Cooper's lawyer says. The novel, set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early '60s, has been made into a movie that will be released this summer. (Click for more on the 'dirty secrets' of The Help.)

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Showing 3 of 6 comments
Jun 8, 2011 6:22 PM CDT
The writing is reflecting the social conventions and interactions of that sad time and place artfully; however, it's sad that the gifted author was so totally thoughtless or insensitive when picking the name of her character _ I do think the lawsuit has merit. - I was dropped into the historically peculiar social scene of the American South (North Carolina, then Virginia) as a transplant from Bavaria, Germany in January1966. I was fresh out of college and held only lofty notions about America. As an outside observer and much to my surprise and shock, I instantly picked up the unpleasant smell and vibrations of these historic, perverted social order and conventions which were still very much alive and palpable around me.- It is emotionally unsettling to me still whenever I remember actual experiences from that time. So how much more painful must it be to the black maids who actually lived it and had to bear the indignities. I cannot excuse Kathryn Stockett for such gross insensitivity. - I am glad we are almost done with this Southern tragedy but still feel like people in the Northern US states are more egalitarian, freer and whole to this day because of the absence of such history.
Mar 11, 2011 9:33 AM CST
New York Law School's legal reporting blog analyzes the real life help's lawsuit against the author and whether she has any chance of success:
Mar 8, 2011 5:11 PM CST
What's the take away from this story? The maid works for the author's brother and sister-in-law. She is being used as a wedge by the brother and sister-in-law to sue his own sister for telling the truth. The maid probably doesn't realize she's being used. Jealousy is a green eyed monster. If I were the author I'd write a book about the sister-in-law. Ohhh delicious!