There are many reasons why this is not a very good biography. The least of these is that it is poorly organized, poorly fact-checked, and poorly written. But also, and much more importantly, it makes mincemeat of Oprah's life and humanity. Oprah's life is taken up as if it were a "feminist political project" rather than as a biography proper. It proceeds to smother both her humanity and her life under a welter of meaningless awards and sycophantic accolades. So much so, that when the dust finally settles beneath this whirlwind of obsequious and sycophantic panting, there is nothing left of Oprah: There frankly is no Oprah there? There is a shaky feminist cardboard cutout left in the place where a life was supposed to have been.
This all puts the reader in an uneasy, unenviable and disadvantaged position. He is forced to fashion a "real biography" from the debris left behind in the wake of this disaster and by reading between (and beneath) the lines. And here I must say that the author has made my task a great deal easier that at first it might seem. Since there is an ironclad logic to her methodology -- "hide everything real that is negative about Oprah's life, and reveal everything that is positive, trivial and unreal about it" - the subtext of her manuscript thus gives us an unerring roadmap to discovery through our own devices, the truth about Oprah's life and humanity.
After reading both between and beneath the lines of this "biography," all I can say is that I would hate to be Oprah's therapist, for as "head cases" go, it is difficult to imagine how a single case could ever be a worse one: illegitimate birth, hated by all sides of the family, considered to be too black and too ugly; raised in racist environment in both North and South, shuttled back and forth between family members, raped at 14, raised in abject poverty in both the North and South, etc.
However, the Rosetta Stone to Oprah's mental health is none of these things, but is clearly the trauma of her pregnancy at 14, and the events surrounding the birth and death of her baby. While the author tried to shield Oprah (and her not so well-hidden feminist agenda), by obscuring and "disingenuously sliding around these critical facts," all she actually did was to make everything in the subtext, even more crystal clear. To wit:
(1) Sexually promiscuous ghetto mothers tend to produce sexually promiscuous ghetto daughters, (check the statistics on this) especially those who feel unloved enough to "act out" against these very same mothers, and Oprah was one such ghetto daughter.
(2) Regarding all of the "supposed sexual abuse" committed against Oprah while in Milwaukee (reading beneath the lines), although it may have begun that way, at some point it appears that it ceased to be sexual abuse and became more like "sexual enjoyment." Taken in context, this sounds more of a "like mother-like-daughter" promiscuity situation than abuse to me?
(3) That Vernita (her mom), found it "impossible to control her daughter," more or less confirms this point. As a result, she sent Oprah back to Tennessee, pregnant.
(4) Even wayward mothers (which Vernita surely was) do not normally abandon their sexual abused daughters and declare them "uncontrollable." And anyway, what did she mean that Oprah was "uncontrollable" if not that she was just too sexually promiscuous?
(5) How did the baby die? We are given no clues. Its death seemed a bit too convenient for a real life scenario. Surely there is a deeper story here that the reader may never really know of.
(6) In any case, Oprah's "real life" began at 15. It was marked by her being shipped off to Tennessee, pregnant, with the trauma of the birth and death of her baby. And yet one of the first entries in her diary after all this, which she began at 15, was that she was "having problems with boys?"
Hmm, how does a traumatized sexually abused teen come up with "having problems with boys" as one of her first problems after being shipped away pregnant by a sexual abuser, followed by the trauma of an ensuing birth and death of her baby?
Even giving Oprah the benefit of the doubt (as I do since I like her, although I don't believe a thing she says), this story makes no sense. The old excuse that "the man-made-me-do-it" is just too thin to cover her this time. A lot more is going on here, and this book is derelict in its duty not to give us at least a plausible explanation. After all, Maya Angelou, Oprah's good friend (who incidentally is from Stamps, Arkansas and not one of the five states the author claims she is from), wrote a whole book about her abuse as a child. Maya's book (I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings) was a classic and every word of it is believable. Oprah's own revelations, had the air of a political tract, rather than a personal confession, and as a result, was completely unbelievable. This book confirms this lack of believability in her "claimed sexual abuse."
I could go on and on but this example is symptomatic of the sloppiness of the book. It is an Oprah Winfrey fairytale that does not do the great woman justice. I really bought it to discover what the true story was behind the strangeness of her relationship with her declared "significant other "Stedman." But I no longer trust anything this author would have to say on the matter, so I will seek answers to that question from other sources. For this purpose I purchased Stedman's own book. God hope there is more truth there than is here.