Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees

Last night Mollie and I watched The Secret Life of Bees. Before you call 241-kids I will tell you that I wouldn't have watched it with her if I'd remembered that May committed suicide. That was tough. I think I must have completely blocked that. I originally read the book shortly before my brother committed suicide so I had locked that safely away. But anyway, before I start another death post let's move away from that.

I loved this book and I think they did an awesome job with the movie. It's tough though, much tougher to watch then to read about. But I think it's important for our kids to understand what happened during the civil rights era. In fact, Mollie asked a lot of the same questions Lily (Dakota Fanning) did--I don't understand, if they have the right to vote why can't they? Easy enough to understand how people kept people from registering, but the why, the anger, is harder. I was just with a friend of mine whose grandfather ordered the desegregation of the Virginia schools. Her mother had a body guard and their house had more than one brick thrown through the window. It's still very difficult for me to understand despite having a husband who has spent much time reading about, writing about and teaching about the Civil Rights Era. Mollie wanted to know if maybe Lily had sat one seat over from Zach if the men wouldn't have beaten him.

There are several parts of the movie when August (Queen Latifah) says some really profound things. One of my favorites (I think this was August) was when she said something about the fact that the anger was hard to understand because most of the angry people had been raised by black women. This is profound for a lot of reasons, but for me it was easy for these white people (mostly men) to hate a group, but love an individual. It's why I've always stressed that you need to get to know someone and not judge them for whom you assume they will be. She later tells Lily that she and her mother had a complicated relationship because she was her nanny. She was the person that Lily's mother ran to when she was in trouble too.

My other favorite part was when she talks about "the secret life of bees" and how bees have a whole life we don't know about. I'm not much for metaphors, but that one I get. The inner workings of people, of relationships. Of Lily who was trying to figure out the secrets behind her life.

The book really affected me because I want to be like Lily. I like who she was as a person--she was genuine, she spoke her mind with honesty. She admitted her mistakes. When she asked a question it wasn't with judgement. She asked Zach if he was going to be a professional football player. He asked why white people only assumed black people could only get ahead through sports. He wanted to be a lawyer. Then she said she was sorry she didn't know black people could be lawyers. She owned up to her own ignorance with genuine apology--rather than becoming defensive. She processed the information and learned from it.

When I read the book, I shared it with my friend Roland. Roland happens to be a older African American man. He could be 55 or 85, I'm not sure I never asked. At the time he was old enough to have experienced the civil rights era though. He told me I reminded him of Lily. It was one of the nicest things he'd ever said to me. I wonder if I told him that?

(If you read this--I miss you, Roland!)

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