Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1148
It is Labor Day and it is hot—so hot that for the first time in forty-one years of service, Aibileen does not wear her stockings to work. Surprisingly, Miss Leefolt tells her that is fine. It is bridge club day, and it is almost too hot for Miss Leefolt to give any orders. Outside, Mae Mobley is playing in the sprinkler with her brother, Ross, who is almost one. Usually Mae Mobley is in preschool every morning, but this is a holiday, so she is home. Both women look out the window with love at the children, and Aibileen wonders if things might be beginning to change. After all, Negroes can now sit at the counter at Walgreens.
Suddenly everything changes. Miss Leefolt starts screaming that the children are going to spoil everything with their water and mud, and she will not have her maid in service without stockings. The book comes out in four days, and Aibileen thinks that is none too soon.
On Thursday, Aibileen gives Baby Girl her snack after school and asks what she learned today. Usually she has something to say, but today she pouts and says “nothing.” Then she asks Aibileen why she is colored. This is not a new question for the maid, but she wants to be sure she says it right. She tells Mae Mobley it is because God made her colored, and that is the only reason. The child says Miss Taylor, her teacher, says colored kids cannot come to their school because they are not smart enough. Aibileen asks if her Baby Girl thinks Aibileen is dumb, and the answer is no—and she says it hard, like she really means it. That means Miss Taylor is not always right, and Mae Mobley hugs the maid and tells her she is “righter than Miss Taylor.”
The next day Aibileen is waiting inside the church. She looks outside and sees a hippie-looking woman with long hair wearing a short white dress and sandals, and Aibileen smiles at the changes in Miss Skeeter. She has not seen her in person for six months, not since they finished the edits and sent in the final draft. Miss Skeeter carries a big brown box to the church steps as if she is dropping off old clothes. Once she leaves, Aibileen brings the box inside. It is a sad way to make the exchange, but it is the safest for all of them.
The book is a beautiful sky blue with a white peace dove stretched across it. The only jarring note is the name under the title: “by Anonymous.” Tomorrow Aibileen will take copies to all the women who told their stories, and Miss Skeeter will ensure that Yule May gets hers even in prison. After taking the box home and putting it under her bed, Aibileen takes one copy over to Minny. She is six months pregnant but no one can tell it yet, and she stares at the cover. Mississippi will get 2,500 copies of the book, and the rest of the country will get the other half—many more than they were told would be printed since Mississippi has now become an important state in the battle for civil rights. Three copies will go to the local library, which has just begun to allow colored people in the building. Minny did not want to read the book until it was finished, so she starts now. She has every reaction, from laughing to growling, and Aibileen leaves her to read. After writing her prayers, Aibileen goes to sleep with a copy of the book right next to her pillow.
There is no change at all on the day the book is set out in stores; everything is exactly the same. As days go by, no one even buys the book from the white bookstore, and only ten copies have been sold in the colored bookstore. On the seventh day, Miss Skeeter calls Aibileen with the news—the book is going to be reviewed on a local television show, and they will be able to watch it next Thursday at one o’clock. They do not know if the review will be good or bad, but they both plan to watch.
On Friday night a week after the book came out, Aibileen is called to a special meeting at the church. She stops to pick up Minny. (Sugar is training at Miss Celia’s so she can fill in when Minny has her baby.) The two women head to church, and as soon as they step in, the doors are locked behind them and clapping begins. Inside, more than thirty people are standing and clapping, blue-covered books in their hands. The Reverend says this is the only time anyone at church will ever acknowledge Aibileen for her part in getting this book written and published. She cannot autograph their books, of course, so all of them have autographed one for her—people in her church and other churches as well.
Aibileen simply breaks down and cries. After two years of tireless work, she accepts their thanks on behalf of all the women who were brave enough to tell their stories. The Reverend tells her there may be hard times ahead; if so, the church is prepared to help in any way. Aibileen is overcome with emotions and wishes someone could celebrate Miss Skeeter like this. Before she leaves, the Reverend hands her a box wrapped in white paper and a blue ribbon and asks her to give it to the white lady and tell her they love her just as if she were family.
Just as the interview show comes on, Miss Leefolt walks into the living room and wants to watch, too. The interviewer is a man and he is holding up the book; next to him is Miss Joline French, and Miss Leefolt is excited to see one of her sorority sisters on the tee-vee screen. She calls Miss Hilly (who has had little luck with maids and now has one with only one arm) and leaves a message for her to turn on the television and watch Joline. Miss Leefolt is busy looking at Joline’s outfit and face, so she hears little of the man’s commentary. He loved the book and wonders, jokingly, if it could have been set right here in Jackson. Miss Joline French is outraged by the book’s content and says it is an affront to all the Southern women who treat their maids like family. The man says he will give his maid a little more respect, but from now on he will pass on the chocolate pie. Miss Joline is still livid when the program ends. Miss Leefolt heard something about Jackson so she leaves immediately to buy herself a copy of the book Aibileen wrote about her.