on October 18, 2004
This book by Helen S. Garson is quite subpar. Most of the "facts" that she gives are things that can be found (...)from watching cable shows that talk about Oprah. Oprah has set the new standard of what talk shows should be, but Ms. Garson did a poor job in showing this. She even describes Oprah as "clowning" for her viewers and audience when she gets excited about something on her show. Yes, I consider myself an "Oprah supporter," and was very disappointed in this biography. The next time Ms. Garson wants to write a biography about a celebrity, she should get her research from more places than the local library.
on May 20, 2009
There are many reasons why this is not a very good biography. The least of these is that it is poorly organized, poorly fact-checked, and poorly written. But also, and much more importantly, it makes mincemeat of Oprah's life and humanity. Oprah's life is taken up as if it were a "feminist political project" rather than as a biography proper. It proceeds to smother both her humanity and her life under a welter of meaningless awards and sycophantic accolades. So much so, that when the dust finally settles beneath this whirlwind of obsequious and sycophantic panting, there is nothing left of Oprah: There frankly is no Oprah there? There is a shaky feminist cardboard cutout left in the place where a life was supposed to have been.
This all puts the reader in an uneasy, unenviable and disadvantaged position. He is forced to fashion a "real biography" from the debris left behind in the wake of this disaster and by reading between (and beneath) the lines. And here I must say that the author has made my task a great deal easier that at first it might seem. Since there is an ironclad logic to her methodology -- "hide everything real that is negative about Oprah's life, and reveal everything that is positive, trivial and unreal about it" - the subtext of her manuscript thus gives us an unerring roadmap to discovery through our own devices, the truth about Oprah's life and humanity.
After reading both between and beneath the lines of this "biography," all I can say is that I would hate to be Oprah's therapist, for as "head cases" go, it is difficult to imagine how a single case could ever be a worse one: illegitimate birth, hated by all sides of the family, considered to be too black and too ugly; raised in racist environment in both North and South, shuttled back and forth between family members, raped at 14, raised in abject poverty in both the North and South, etc.
However, the Rosetta Stone to Oprah's mental health is none of these things, but is clearly the trauma of her pregnancy at 14, and the events surrounding the birth and death of her baby. While the author tried to shield Oprah (and her not so well-hidden feminist agenda), by obscuring and "disingenuously sliding around these critical facts," all she actually did was to make everything in the subtext, even more crystal clear. To wit:
(1) Sexually promiscuous ghetto mothers tend to produce sexually promiscuous ghetto daughters, (check the statistics on this) especially those who feel unloved enough to "act out" against these very same mothers, and Oprah was one such ghetto daughter.
(2) Regarding all of the "supposed sexual abuse" committed against Oprah while in Milwaukee (reading beneath the lines), although it may have begun that way, at some point it appears that it ceased to be sexual abuse and became more like "sexual enjoyment." Taken in context, this sounds more of a "like mother-like-daughter" promiscuity situation than abuse to me?
(3) That Vernita (her mom), found it "impossible to control her daughter," more or less confirms this point. As a result, she sent Oprah back to Tennessee, pregnant.
(4) Even wayward mothers (which Vernita surely was) do not normally abandon their sexual abused daughters and declare them "uncontrollable." And anyway, what did she mean that Oprah was "uncontrollable" if not that she was just too sexually promiscuous?
(5) How did the baby die? We are given no clues. Its death seemed a bit too convenient for a real life scenario. Surely there is a deeper story here that the reader may never really know of.
(6) In any case, Oprah's "real life" began at 15. It was marked by her being shipped off to Tennessee, pregnant, with the trauma of the birth and death of her baby. And yet one of the first entries in her diary after all this, which she began at 15, was that she was "having problems with boys?"
Hmm, how does a traumatized sexually abused teen come up with "having problems with boys" as one of her first problems after being shipped away pregnant by a sexual abuser, followed by the trauma of an ensuing birth and death of her baby?
Even giving Oprah the benefit of the doubt (as I do since I like her, although I don't believe a thing she says), this story makes no sense. The old excuse that "the man-made-me-do-it" is just too thin to cover her this time. A lot more is going on here, and this book is derelict in its duty not to give us at least a plausible explanation. After all, Maya Angelou, Oprah's good friend (who incidentally is from Stamps, Arkansas and not one of the five states the author claims she is from), wrote a whole book about her abuse as a child. Maya's book (I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings) was a classic and every word of it is believable. Oprah's own revelations, had the air of a political tract, rather than a personal confession, and as a result, was completely unbelievable. This book confirms this lack of believability in her "claimed sexual abuse."
I could go on and on but this example is symptomatic of the sloppiness of the book. It is an Oprah Winfrey fairytale that does not do the great woman justice. I really bought it to discover what the true story was behind the strangeness of her relationship with her declared "significant other "Stedman." But I no longer trust anything this author would have to say on the matter, so I will seek answers to that question from other sources. For this purpose I purchased Stedman's own book. God hope there is more truth there than is here.
on June 23, 2014
If you have millions of dollars in America, a country not known for its generosity from extremely wealthy people, it's normally accepted that you are a very "kind" person, thus explains the aura which surrounds the scream queen Oprah. Her empire not only includes millions of dollars, but questionable investments throughout the world which include sweat factories and exploited workers. I for one found this book rather tedious as it attempts to make Oprah a saint who does no wrong. How much money can a person accumulate? I'm waiting for her fall from grace like Martha Stewarts, another loaded filthy rich.
on December 24, 2009
I haven't read the whole book, but I do want to comment on an inaccuracy.
On page 25, the author reports that Winfrey received a scholarship to attend Nicolet High School, which she describes as a "private, newly integrated" high school. That's incorrect. I attended Nicolet myself, and my brother was in her class. Nicolet is and always has been a public school, and it was never segregated (it didn't even open until 1955). I'm not sure what a "scholarship" would have meant, unless students outside the district had to pay tuition and the school forgave it or someone else paid it for her. It's certainly true that in those years there were very few African-American students, but Winfrey was not the only one, as some other sources report.
I know she didn't stay at Nicolet long enough to graduate, but I am very proud to have Oprah Winfrey as a fellow alumna of our school.
I know it's a small point, but this carelessness to easily verifiable detail makes me wonder how careful the author was about other "facts."
on May 16, 2008
If you have millions of dollars in America, a country not known for its generosity, it's normally accepted that you are a very "kind" person, thus explains the aura which surrounds the scream queen Oprah. Her empire not only includes millions of dollars, but questionable investments throughout the world which include sweat factories and exploited workers. I for one found this book rather tedious as it attempts to make Oprah a saint who does no wrong. I'm waiting for her fall from grace like Martha Stewarts.
on May 6, 2006
I love Oprah and loved reading her biography. Her life story is exciting and inspiring and should be shared and read by people who wish to succeed against all odds.
Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in 1954. She is an Emmy Ward winning talk show host and magazine publisher. In 2003 Forbes magazine proclaimed her the first black woman billionaire in the world. She has appeared on Time magazine's 100 most influential people list more frequently than any other woman, and considered by many to be the most influential woman in the world.
Oprah is one of America's greatest philanthropists donating generously to charity. Not only is Oprah's personal charity giving unmatched by any other show business celebrity, but she has one of the most generous audiences in show business, raising money for various causes.
Oprah was on the first national broadcast of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1986. In the mid-1990s the shows adopted a more serious format; addressing issues that Winfrey thought were of importance to women, such as infidelity, child abuse and cosmetic surgery. She often interviews celebrities on issues that directly involve them in some way, such as cancer, charity work, or substance abuse. In addition, she interviews ordinary people who have done extraordinary things or been involved in important current issues.
In 1985, Winfrey co-starred in Steven Spielberg's epic adaptation of Alice Walker's award-winning novel "The Color Purple". She earned immediate acclaim as Sofia, the distraught housewife. The following year Winfrey was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but she lost. She has also acted in other films. Winfrey publishes two magazines and she has co-authored five books.
Winfrey has never married, but it is widely assumed that she has lived with her partner Stedman Graham for almost twenty years. The relationship of Oprah and Stedman has been documented through the years with numerous romantic tabloid articles often accompanied by color spreads of the couple at home and on lavish vacations.