The Invisible Line was more about the phenomenon of actually crossing the “race line”, families changing from black to white, than about “pretending” to be something else. Sharfstein makes some really interesting points about what it means to be black, white, or somewhere in the middle (usually referred to as “mulatto” in the book), and the stories of the three families that he uses illustrate the difficulties in trying to establish a rigid distinction between black and white.
In the end, The Help isn’t just about civil rights: it’s about the complex relationships between women in both social and work relationships, and the even more complicated realities of living in Mississippi in the middle of institutionalized racism and the national integration debates.
What the synopsis doesn’t tell you is that Jay is an African-American man who saves a white woman from drowning in the bayou in a very poor, very black neighbourhood, and that she refuses to say anything to him, his wife, or the boat’s driver. It also doesn’t tell you that Jay has a history in the Black Power Movement, and that this history is a very important part of the story, its effect on him (and some of the other characters) a key characteristic that determines how he thinks and behaves. All of this makes for a really interesting story.