Media & Communications Law

Best-Selling Author of 'The Help' Is Sued by Family Maid re Similarities to Book Character

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A major character in Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling book The Help is named Aibileen Clark, has a gold tooth and works as a household maid in Jackson, Miss.

Ablene Cooper is a real-life maid who has worked for Stockett’s brother in Jackson, Miss., for over a decade and has a gold tooth. And, according to a lawsuit filed by Cooper and her lawyer, she asked Stockett, to no avail, not to embarrass her by portraying her in the novel, which is set in the 1960s, the Commercial Appeal reported.

Referring to one passage in the book, in which “Aibileen” says, as she watches a cockroach on the kitchen floor, “He big, inch, inch an a half. He black. Blacker than me,” the suit says Cooper is upset and offended “to be falsely portrayed in The Help as an African-American maid in Jackson, Mississippi, who uses this kind of language and compares her skin color to a cockroach.”

The publisher of the book says it is fictional and denies that there is a basis for Cooper’s lawsuit.

The suit, which was filed in Hinds County Circuit Court, says Cooper also worked as a babysitter for Stockett herself, reports the Clarion-Ledger.

The legal action apparently seeks tort damages for alleged misappropriation of Cooper’s name and likeness.

Additional coverage:

Arts Beat (New York Times): “Family Maid Files Suit Against Author of ‘The Help’ “

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