Publishers Weekly’s inaugural U.S. Book Show kicked off this morning with a presentation by the publishing industry’s biggest booster: Oprah Winfrey. In her keynote, Winfrey's tone was classic Oprah—and pitch-perfect for this year’s virtual gathering of the book world.
Winfrey acknowledged the losses booksellers experienced this past year while celebrating their creativity in connecting authors with readers and getting books to customers when stores were closed to in-person traffic. “I hold onto the stories of great resilience and action,” she said, lauding booksellers for shifting to online retail and doing such things as sponsoring virtual author events and hand delivering books. The Book Industry Charitable Foundation received a special shoutout for its “incredible work” throughout the pandemic, with Winfrey praising Binc for providing financial assistance to booksellers in need.
Thanking booksellers for making it possible for her “to live my best life—because, to me, there is no best life without books,” Winfrey emphasized that “great books have the power to open minds” and change lives. It’s a goal that she hopes to achieve with her own book, cowritten with Dr. Bruce D. Perry, a child psychiatrist and neuroscientist.
What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience and Healing, published last month by Flatiron, was conceived a few years ago, when Dr. Perry discussed with Winfrey the long-term impact of childhood trauma. “We need to shift the question from ‘what’s wrong with these children,’ or ‘what's wrong with you,’ to ‘what happened to you,’ ” she recalled Dr. Perry telling her. “Oh, did that spark a major ‘ah ha!’ for me.”
What Happened to You? argues that those who, like Winfrey, have experienced trauma "have to acknowledge that experience and understand it as something that happened to us and not repress it," she said. "The timing of this book’s publication is not lost on me,” Winfrey added, pointing out that What Happened to You? will appeal to a broad audience, as its message pertains to the collective trauma everybody experienced to varying degrees during the pandemic. “If we're strong, no matter what we've confronted, no matter how great the stress inflicted upon us, we've been told that we'll just bounce back to our original shape, re-emerge unscathed. Not so, says Dr. Perry.”
Winfrey noted that 2021 marks the 25th year of the Oprah Book Club, and concluded her presentation with a tease about her next selection, to be announced on June 15. “If anything in the world makes me optimistic, it’s the discovery of an emerging writer— someone whose vision creates a shift in how the reader sees the world,” she said, adding: “I hope you keep finding and supporting rockstar authors with your passion, with all your heart. We’ll continue to be here, to read and savor every word.”