Kathryn Stockett was very forthcoming about one of her characters Aibileen, played by Viola Davis in the feature film, being based on her own family’s maid when she was a girl. But her brother’s maid, Ablene Cooper has accused the authoress of basing the character on her. She has sought $75,000 but the judge has officially thrown the case out.
If the similarity it names doesn’t seem like enough to convince you, consider this tidbit reported by NPR:
Besides the similarities in names, Cooper’s lawsuit says she lost a son shortly before going to work for Stockett’s brother, where she takes care of two children, a boy and a girl. Cooper’s lawsuit says that’s the same as the character portrayed in the book.
Kathryn gave Ablene a copy of The Help a month before it was published in January 2009, but she didn’t file a lawsuit until February 2011. Her reasoning for delaying such legal proceedings is that she had not read the book until 2011, but the judge dismissed the case because of a one-year statute of limitations.
I’m always inclined to give writers the benefit of the doubt when crafting fiction because, as a writer of fiction myself, I know that the collage of memories, life experiences, and character quilting can sometimes mirror actual events — even unintentionally. But even though Kathryn has yet to comment publicly on a case, NPR dug up this quote she shared during an interview in 2009:
“When I was writing this book I never thought anyone else would read it, so I didn’t get real creative with the names. I just used people I knew. Some of them aren’t talking to me right now, but I feel like they’ll come around.”
Ablene was quoted as saying of Kathryn, “She’s a liar. She did it. She knows she did it.”
Such accusations, although not resulting in a successful lawsuit, depict Kathryn almost as awfully as one her snide Jackson, Mississippi housewives.