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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 21 WINFREY: Now, didn’t you write me that you thought at one point reading it that Mary [McGarry Morris] had changed the names of the characters to protect your privacy? CONNIE: Yes. Yes. Exactly. I – I – that was my first impression. Marie was 35. I was 34 when my experience happened. My children were the exact same age as Alice, Norm, and Benjy. And as I read, I just thought, “This is my story.” . . . I should be writing this book. (Oprah’s book club anniversary party, 1997, p. 16) Wally Lamb’s novel She’s Come Undone generated a similar response from C. C., who was invited to join the videotaped conversation about the book. “[T]his was my life,” she stated. “My father – after my mother died, even though I lived in the same house with him, he was never there. . . . [H]e would be gone for days at a time to his girlfriend’s house, he would be away on business or whatever, and he loved me with food the same way Dolores’ [the main character] father did” (Third rock from the sun, 1997, p. 12). Likewise, Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth resonated strongly with Cynthia, a participant in the April 1998 Book Club discussion. Cynthia was drawn to March Murray, the main character, who early on in the novel struggles over whether or not to leave her husband Richard, whom she considers to be a bland but otherwise agreeable partner. Richard “reminded me of my . . . ex-husband, just a really great guy,” Cynthia observed. “He met my checklist: good looking, athletic, good family, smart, educated, and all of that. But he was the wrong good guy. And, as a woman, I grew up thinking that the only way you would leave a man or should leave a man is if he beats you or is he’s abusive or if he’s an alcoholic. . . . But how do you leave a good man” (Oprah’s book club, 1998, April 9, p. 17)? 11 All of these women, like numerous other women featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, recognized themselves and their lives in the characters and situations presented in specific Book Club selections and used those identifications as material with which to reflect upon their own pasts, presents, and futures. The March 2001 program on Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys provided some of the most moving examples of this process of identification and self-reflection broadcast on Oprah’s

Authors: Striphas, Theodore.
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Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club
21
WINFREY: Now, didn’t you write me that you thought at one point reading it that
Mary [McGarry Morris] had changed the names of the characters to protect your
privacy?
CONNIE: Yes. Yes. Exactly. I – I – that was my first impression. Marie was 35. I
was 34 when my experience happened. My children were the exact same age as
Alice, Norm, and Benjy. And as I read, I just thought, “This is my story.” . . . I
should be writing this book. (Oprah’s book club anniversary party, 1997, p. 16)
Wally Lamb’s novel She’s Come Undone generated a similar response from C. C., who was invited to
join the videotaped conversation about the book. “[T]his was my life,” she stated. “My father – after
my mother died, even though I lived in the same house with him, he was never there. . . . [H]e would
be gone for days at a time to his girlfriend’s house, he would be away on business or whatever, and he
loved me with food the same way Dolores’ [the main character] father did” (Third rock from the sun,
1997, p. 12). Likewise, Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth resonated strongly with Cynthia, a participant
in the April 1998 Book Club discussion. Cynthia was drawn to March Murray, the main character,
who early on in the novel struggles over whether or not to leave her husband Richard, whom she
considers to be a bland but otherwise agreeable partner. Richard “reminded me of my . . . ex-husband,
just a really great guy,” Cynthia observed. “He met my checklist: good looking, athletic, good family,
smart, educated, and all of that. But he was the wrong good guy. And, as a woman, I grew up
thinking that the only way you would leave a man or should leave a man is if he beats you or is he’s
abusive or if he’s an alcoholic. . . . But how do you leave a good man” (Oprah’s book club, 1998,
April 9, p. 17)?
11
All of these women, like numerous other women featured on The Oprah Winfrey
Show, recognized themselves and their lives in the characters and situations presented in specific
Book Club selections and used those identifications as material with which to reflect upon their own
pasts, presents, and futures.
The March 2001 program on Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys provided some of
the most moving examples of this process of identification and self-reflection broadcast on Oprah’s


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