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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 7 that both time and page length were carefully considered criteria by which specific books were selected for the Club. Longer books often were strategically timed to coincide with the summer months, when Oprah viewers presumably had more free time to spend reading compared to other times of the year (e.g., on summer vacation). Shorter books, on the other hand, often coincided with months when women likely were to have more responsibilities and thus less time to read (e.g., around the winter holidays). Oprah’s Book Club producers were keenly sensitive, in other words, to how books and reading could be made to fit into the tempo and variable rhythms of women’s lives, rather than placing the burden on women to adjust their schedules to accommodate books and reading. Consistently, women featured on Oprah’s Book Club highlighted how raising children posed perhaps the most formidable challenge to their finding personal time. A woman named Peggy, for instance, attested to not having read a novel in twenty years on the September 1997 Book Club broadcast. “I didn’t read for pleasure at all the whole time I was raising my children,” she explained (Oprah’s book club anniversary party, 1997, p. 5). Many women went on to share how Oprah’s Book Club occasioned their incorporating books and reading into their daily lives despite – and in some cases because of – their parental responsibilities. Following the videotaped discussion of Maeve Binchy’s Tara Road in October 1999, an unidentified woman in the Oprah studio audience stated: “Well, I have two small children. It’s so hard to sit down and . . . really focus on a book. I get interrupted, but I made it a point to read this book [Tara Road] because I knew that’s what the show was about. So – and I enjoyed it. I was telling my husband, ‘I haven’t read a book in so long’” (Oprah’s book club, 1999, October 14, p. 23). The August 2000 Book Club program included an audio excerpt of a letter explaining how one woman was moved by Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, a novel chronicling a pious American family’s mission in the Belgian Congo and the Congolese struggle for independence. “As a stay-at-home mom, I often feel caught up in the world of children, conversations with children, conversations about children. I loved this book. It brought me out of the world I live in” (Oprah’s book club, 2000, August 23, p. 23). Oprah’s Book Club actively foregrounded, in other words, how women might treat selections not as purely aesthetic

Authors: Striphas, Theodore.
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Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club 7
that both time and page length were carefully considered criteria by which specific books were
selected for the Club. Longer books often were strategically timed to coincide with the summer
months, when Oprah viewers presumably had more free time to spend reading compared to other
times of the year (e.g., on summer vacation). Shorter books, on the other hand, often coincided with
months when women likely were to have more responsibilities and thus less time to read (e.g., around
the winter holidays). Oprah’s Book Club producers were keenly sensitive, in other words, to how
books and reading could be made to fit into the tempo and variable rhythms of women’s lives, rather
than placing the burden on women to adjust their schedules to accommodate books and reading.
Consistently, women featured on Oprah’s Book Club highlighted how raising children posed
perhaps the most formidable challenge to their finding personal time. A woman named Peggy, for
instance, attested to not having read a novel in twenty years on the September 1997 Book Club
broadcast. “I didn’t read for pleasure at all the whole time I was raising my children,” she explained
(Oprah’s book club anniversary party, 1997, p. 5). Many women went on to share how Oprah’s Book
Club occasioned their incorporating books and reading into their daily lives despite – and in some
cases because of – their parental responsibilities. Following the videotaped discussion of Maeve
Binchy’s Tara Road in October 1999, an unidentified woman in the Oprah studio audience stated:
“Well, I have two small children. It’s so hard to sit down and . . . really focus on a book. I get
interrupted, but I made it a point to read this book [Tara Road] because I knew that’s what the show
was about. So – and I enjoyed it. I was telling my husband, ‘I haven’t read a book in so long’”
(Oprah’s book club, 1999, October 14, p. 23). The August 2000 Book Club program included an
audio excerpt of a letter explaining how one woman was moved by Barbara Kingsolver’s The
Poisonwood Bible, a novel chronicling a pious American family’s mission in the Belgian Congo and
the Congolese struggle for independence. “As a stay-at-home mom, I often feel caught up in the
world of children, conversations with children, conversations about children. I loved this book. It
brought me out of the world I live in” (Oprah’s book club, 2000, August 23, p. 23). Oprah’s Book
Club actively foregrounded, in other words, how women might treat selections not as purely aesthetic


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