However, I think that we were the exception. Going back to when my mother was raised in the deep south in the 50s and 60s, my grandmother was frustrated with the way my mother talked. My Mom told me that she talked like the help because that was who she was around the most. And what's interesting is that when she tells stories of her childhood, she often refers to their help as though she was a member of the family.
When I asked a couple of friends from Georgia about this book and recommended it to them, these were some of the comments I got (and keep in mind this is from people of my generation who grew up in the south in the 1980's, that's over 20 years after The Help takes place).
One friend, "If it talks bad about our help, then I just can't read it. You know Betty practically raised me."Betty is the name of her"help" who was with her for her entire childhood.
Another friend, "Oh yes, (as she went through all of our friends and knew all of the names of our friends' help) Betty was xxx's help, Ruth was our help, Alberta was xxx's help. In fact, I am almost certain that Betty used to spank us all."
Another friend "XXX (name of her help) has been with my Mom for over 30 years, I don't know what we'd ever do if something happen to her."
So, to answer your question, is The Help for real? I think in many parts of the south it was not only real, but a deep part of the culture. And for some it still is, for better or for worse.