Three Rivers Press 2011
New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network November 15, 2011 Oline Eaton
When she emerged triumphant in a legal battle with the Texas beef industry, Oprah Winfrey took to the steps of the Amarillo court house and declared: “Free speech rocks!” She was likely a little less enthusiastic about the First Amendment following the publication of Kitty Kelley‘s unauthorized book Oprah: A Biography, which is now out in paperback.
The match-up of the daytime television queen and the unauthorized biographer, Kitty Kelley, is one for the ages. The author of eight books– five of them New York Times number one bestsellers, all of them about living people and none of them authorized– Kelley has spent thirty years writing unflinchingly candid accounts of the most influential celebrities of our age. Even the New Yorker allowed that “A Kitty Kelley biography of Oprah Winfrey is one of those King Kong vs. Godzilla events in celebrity culture.”
With the help of over 800 interviews and four years of research, she provides an insightful analysis of Winfrey’s cultural significance, as an African-American woman and a survivor of sexual abuse. But, perhaps the biggest contribution of Oprah: A Biography is that it picks away at the seemingly impenetrable persona Winfrey has presented and paints a nuanced portrait of a woman far more complicated, ambitious and interesting than the one seen on TV.