James Frey is well known for his book, A Million Little Pieces, which Oprah Winfrey originally blushed about. Mr. Frey has just released his latest novel, It Takes a Village to Abuse a Child. It’s about a woman, named Oprah, who becomes a multimillionaire television personality. At first, she is a great television hostess who has a warm sense of humor, great guests, and covers a variety of interesting topics.
As the years go by, Oprah begins to change once the money hits her head. She engages in philanthropy projects that seem to be more about Oprah than the cause she is trying to help. Oprah then creates a cult of middle-aged housewives who can’t seem to think for themselves. Oprah is their God! She pushes products on them like a prostitute pushes sex and creates her own “book club” where she recommends pathetic books, then unprofessionally berates the author of a particular book when her audience discovers that not everything in the book is true. The Oprah character in this book seems very similar to Oprah Winfrey, the talk show millionaire who recently berated James Frey on her show.
The book starts off with Oprah telling people, at a dinner party, how bad her past was and how she had to rise above it all to become who she is today. The guests don’t seem particularly touched by the story because it seems like Oprah’s purpose in telling it was just to brag about herself. James Frey’s writing style seems a little bit personal at the beginning, although he lets go as the novel goes on.
Then, we see Oprah getting on a plane to go to South Africa. She hugs and kisses (multiple times) her assistant, Gayle. “I’m off to save the world,” Oprah says. Another assistant reminds Oprah that she received a call about donating money to inner city schools in America. “Will this get me on magazine covers?” Oprah questions. When the assistant shakes her head “no,” Oprah tells the assistant to stop bothering her. I wish James Frey could have elaborated more on the character development in this part of the novel.
We then see Oprah in a South African village. She has a bunch of photographers, web camera specialists, audio recording specialists, and high definition video experts that she brought a long with her. She then says, “Hey, I think I’ll open up a school for girls!” She then jumps up and down and stops after she realizes that nobody on her staff is as excited as she is. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy is announced by Oprah on several media outlets. It is at this point where the major trouble starts and Oprah, along with the readers, learn a valuable lesson. James Frey is able to put the reader in Oprah’s shoes so they can understand how a simple act of philanthropy can turn into a disaster if the purpose of the philanthropic act was nothing but self-serving in the first place.
While the school is being built, Oprah seems more interested in announcing that the school is being developed rather than making sure she has the right staff to make her “dream” come true. Teachers get hired without proper background checks and administrators have criminal backgrounds that aren’t discovered. Oprah then puts herself on magazine covers, bragging about her latest philanthropic efforts. She even creates a television special about it. Once again, Oprah fools her audience into believing something wonderful has just been done.