BOOK REVIEW: ‘OWN IT … Oprah Winfrey In Her Own Words.’ Edited by Anjali Becker and Jeanne Engelmann.


Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    In these tough times of Corona Virus when there is a complete lockdown, it is indeed the best time to go through all the book reviews that I’ve done. You’ll find them all in my blog. 

    I’m sure you must have heard the name of Oprah Winfrey.  Well!! I’ve been able to lay my hands on a book titled ‘OWN IT … Oprah Winfrey In Her Own Words.’ It is edited by Anjali Becker and Jeanne Engelmann.

    There is something about her name that I must tell you upfront. Orpah Gail Winfrey (the Biblical “Orpah” mentioned in the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Bible was mispronounced as “Oprah” and the name stuck on to her).   

    Before I head out to tell you about the book let me first give you a brief introduction of Oprah Gail Winfrey. ‘One of the most successful entrepreneurs of her generation.’ says Forbes. Oprah was born on January 29, 1954. She happens to be an American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer and a philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ broadcasted from Chicago. It was the highest-rated television program of its kind in the history and ran in national syndication for 25 years from 1986 to 2011. Dubbed the “Queen of All Media” she was the richest African-American of the 20th century and North America’s first black multi-billionaire. She is also ranked as the greatest black philanthropist in American history. By the year 2007, she was often ranked as the most influential woman in the world.

    Winfrey was born in poverty in rural Mississippi to a single teenage mother and later raised in inner-city Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has confessed that she was molested during her childhood and in her early teens and became pregnant at the age of 14. Her son was born premature and died in infancy. Winfrey was then sent to live with the man she calls her father, Vernon Winfrey, a barber in Tennessee, and landed with a job in radio while still in high school. By 19, she was a co-anchor for the local evening news. Winfrey’s, often emotional, extemporaneous delivery, eventually led, to her transfer, to the daytime talk show arena, and after having boosted a third-rated, local, Chicago talk show, to first place, she launched her own production company and became internationally syndicated.

    Credited with creating a more intimate, confessional form of media communication, Winfrey popularized and revolutionized, the tabloid talk show genre, pioneered by Phil Donahue. Through this medium, Winfrey broke 20th-century taboos and allowed LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual & Transgender) people to enter the mainstream through television appearances. In 1994, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

    By the mid-1990s, Winfrey had reinvented her show with a focus on literature, self-improvement, mindfulness, and spirituality. Though she was criticized for unleashing a confession culture, promoting controversial self-help ideas, and having an emotion-centered approach, she was also praised for overcoming adversity to become a benefactor to others. Winfrey had also emerged as a political force in the 2008 presidential race, delivering about one million votes to Barack Obama in the razor close 2008 Democratic primary. In 2013, Winfrey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama and an honorary doctorate degree from Duke and Harvard. In 2008, she formed her own network, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).

    The title book ‘Own it’ is quite a disappointment. It hardly has any, so called editors’ contribution barring a short flat introduction. The total number of pages, in the book are 144, plus the table of contents. It is just a series of bland, quote after quote, presumably uttered by Oprah herself, during her long prolific career. The book doesn’t even have a proper introduction or a foreword by Oprah. The publisher is, An Agate Imprint.

    The editors have divided the quotes into eight chapters namely Preperation/Risk Taking/Decision Making/Challenges/Work-life balance/Leadership/Mission-Vision and Philanthropy/Oprah’s achievements. In addition there is a chapter each on milestones and citations.

    The editors have not made any introductory sentences to link the quotes. The title of the book states, ‘in her own words’ which in fact is somewhat deceiving. The book is all about words that Oprah might have spoken, but it is not written by Oprah.

    The book doesn’t have much to offer. In fact I liked the ‘milestone’ a chapter at the rear of the book better than the main book. It describes her life in pointers from 1954 to 2016.

    Let me spell out a few quotes that I liked out of the book:

    Here is one on Ratings

    ‘I don’t do anything just for ratings, but as I’ve said, we’re in the television business. If you all are not watching this, if this does not attract your attention, then that means we have not succeeded in doing what we’re supposed to do as a business. So am I looking for people I am interested in and also that I believe the public is interested in, our viewers? Of course. And does that equal ratings? I hope so.

   On Being Grateful there is a quote that I liked.

Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.

On Leading by Example

    It appears Oprah believed in Mahatma Gandhi. I can figure that out when she talks about leading by Example … Become the change you want to see—those are words I live by (a quote of Mahatma Gandhi). She goes on to say: Instead of belittling, uplift. Instead of demolishing, rebuild. Instead of misleading, light the way so that all of us can stand on higher ground.

    My rating five out of ten.    

By Kamlesh Tripathi



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