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A Dialectic With the Everyday: Communication & Cultural Politics on Oprah Winfrey's Book Club
Unformatted Document Text:  Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club 16 January 24, pp. 11-12). Dubus went on to note that the man who had purchased the house in the Globe article was of Middle Eastern descent, prompting him to wonder, “what if my colonel bought this house?” – a question that summarizes the book’s basic storyline (Oprah’s book club, 2001, January 24, p. 13). The preceding examples illustrate one way in which Oprah’s Book Club spotlighted the connections between actual people, places, and events and those of the books. Because the characters, settings, and so forth to which Oprah’s Book Club books refer sometimes no longer were “present,” however, producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show turned to authors, invited guests, and specific features of the books themselves to bear witness to their actuality. For example, the November 1999 program on Breena Clarke’s River, Cross My Heart dwelled extensively on the actuality of the novel’s setting and main character. The book takes place in 1920s Georgetown, D.C., when the neighborhood consisted largely of working class African Americans (in contrast to its far whiter, petite-bourgeois population of today). In order to demonstrate the actuality of “Black Georgetown,” the episode included a videotaped interview with 100 year-old Eva Calloway, whom Winfrey described as “one of the last living witnesses” of the old Georgetown community (Anne Murray and her daughter’s battle with anorexia , 1999, p. 11). Calloway’s simultaneously oral and corporeal “witnessing” clearly was meant to actualize a Georgetown that existed but no longer evidently existed as such. Incidentally, the episode also featured an on-camera interview with Edna Clarke, the author’s mother, whom Winfrey revealed “was the inspiration behind 12-year-old Johnnie Mae,” the novel’s main character (Anne Murray and her daughter’s battle with anorexia , 1999, p. 10). The videotaped interview with Lalita Tademy, author of the September 2001 Book Club selection Cane River, likewise bore witness to the disappearance of people and places while underscoring their actuality to the membership of the Book Club. Spanning the years 1834-1936, Cane River chronicles the lives and stories of four generations of Louisiana Creole slave women, all of whom, we were told, were Tademy’s ancestors whom she came to “know” after conducting exhaustive genealogical research (Oprah’s book club: Cane River, 2001, p. 2). Technically speaking,

Authors: Striphas, Theodore.
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Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club
16
January 24, pp. 11-12). Dubus went on to note that the man who had purchased the house in the
Globe article was of Middle Eastern descent, prompting him to wonder, “what if my colonel bought
this house?” – a question that summarizes the book’s basic storyline (Oprah’s book club, 2001,
January 24, p. 13).
The preceding examples illustrate one way in which Oprah’s Book Club spotlighted the
connections between actual people, places, and events and those of the books. Because the characters,
settings, and so forth to which Oprah’s Book Club books refer sometimes no longer were “present,”
however, producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show turned to authors, invited guests, and specific
features of the books themselves to bear witness to their actuality. For example, the November 1999
program on Breena Clarke’s River, Cross My Heart dwelled extensively on the actuality of the novel’s
setting and main character. The book takes place in 1920s Georgetown, D.C., when the neighborhood
consisted largely of working class African Americans (in contrast to its far whiter, petite-bourgeois
population of today). In order to demonstrate the actuality of “Black Georgetown,” the episode
included a videotaped interview with 100 year-old Eva Calloway, whom Winfrey described as “one of
the last living witnesses” of the old Georgetown community (Anne Murray and her daughter’s battle
with anorexia
, 1999, p. 11). Calloway’s simultaneously oral and corporeal “witnessing” clearly was
meant to actualize a Georgetown that existed but no longer evidently existed as such. Incidentally, the
episode also featured an on-camera interview with Edna Clarke, the author’s mother, whom Winfrey
revealed “was the inspiration behind 12-year-old Johnnie Mae,” the novel’s main character (Anne
Murray and her daughter’s battle with anorexia
, 1999, p. 10).
The videotaped interview with Lalita Tademy, author of the September 2001 Book Club
selection Cane River, likewise bore witness to the disappearance of people and places while
underscoring their actuality to the membership of the Book Club. Spanning the years 1834-1936,
Cane River chronicles the lives and stories of four generations of Louisiana Creole slave women, all
of whom, we were told, were Tademy’s ancestors whom she came to “know” after conducting
exhaustive genealogical research (Oprah’s book club: Cane River, 2001, p. 2). Technically speaking,


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