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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 25 U.S. Most of all I worry that the Club’s selections and preferred reading practices may imply that the recalcitrant social problems addressed in the books – gendered violence, sexism, incest, racism, ethnocentrism, colonialism, kidnapping, abandonment, substance abuse, family secrets, sexual difference, bigamy, mental illness, child abuse, etc. – can be resolved individually, primarily through acts of book reading and television viewing. They cannot. Then again, I find some solace in the fact that Oprah’s Book Club was what it was – a club, which, by definition, implies some level of sociality, or, more optimistically, a willingness on the part of viewer/readers to engage the myriad social problems addressed in the selections collectively. At the time of Winfrey’s decision in Spring 2002 to drastically reduce the activities of the Book Club, however, these inequities, injustices, and brutalities remain stubbornly and undeniably part of women’s everyday lives. The larger political challenge, then, may be to find ways to both broaden and intensify the kinds of collective relations and engaged conversations that constituted “triumphant” groups like Oprah’s Book Club.

Authors: Striphas, Theodore.
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Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club
25
U.S. Most of all I worry that the Club’s selections and preferred reading practices may imply that the
recalcitrant social problems addressed in the books – gendered violence, sexism, incest, racism,
ethnocentrism, colonialism, kidnapping, abandonment, substance abuse, family secrets, sexual
difference, bigamy, mental illness, child abuse, etc. – can be resolved individually, primarily through
acts of book reading and television viewing. They cannot. Then again, I find some solace in the fact
that Oprah’s Book Club was what it was – a club, which, by definition, implies some level of sociality,
or, more optimistically, a willingness on the part of viewer/readers to engage the myriad social
problems addressed in the selections collectively. At the time of Winfrey’s decision in Spring 2002 to
drastically reduce the activities of the Book Club, however, these inequities, injustices, and brutalities
remain stubbornly and undeniably part of women’s everyday lives. The larger political challenge,
then, may be to find ways to both broaden and intensify the kinds of collective relations and engaged
conversations that constituted “triumphant” groups like Oprah’s Book Club.


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