Barbara Kingsolver

My dinner party with 5 famous people: #1 Oprah Winfrey

For the next 5 posts, I’ve decided to take a cue from the classic college application question: If you could have dinner with five famous people (alive or dead) who would they be and why? It’s a good question because it shows what you value in a person, and what you hope to gain from the interaction. So without further ado, the first person who came to mind was Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah and me on a picnic

Oprah and me on a picnic

What I love most about Oprah is that she treats life like one big classroom. She’s constantly learning, always asking questions, always looking at something in a new way. She could have taken the easy route and continued with her show for decades, but she needed something new and challenging so she started an entire television network. I don’t have cable so I don’t get to watch it :(.  People seem to want to bash the network and celebrate in its fledgling ratings, but I see it as an amazing act of bravery. How many people will risk their public brand like that? As the great lady herself said, “challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”

Oprah introduced me to author’s I love (Jonathan Franzen, Isabel Allende, and Barbara Kingsolver to name a few), causes I care deeply about (The Fistula Foundation, Puppies behind bars, and The Grameen Bank to name a few), and questions of spirituality that I still grapple with. She asked questions and we all got to listen to the answers.

I would want Oprah to relax at the dinner party. No toasts, no stories, no pressure. She’s worked hard her whole life entertaining and challenging us that all I would really want is for her to sit, drink some wine, and receive a big fat hug from me at the end of dinner.

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote of hers: “I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear.”

Women are not that bad

I was browsing the aisles of a small book store when I overheard two young women talking.

“I’m trying to remember the title of that memoir that’s supposed to be like the male version of Eat Pray Love,” one said.

“Oh, I bet the male version would be much better!” the other said.

“I know! I can’t stand women authors. They’re so self-indulgent.”

Just recounting this story makes me shake my fist and say out loud “Why I oughta!” And let me remind you that these were women. I picked up a large book to hide behind and followed them around the store. I learned that they were English majors at NYU. COME ON! Was their dream to one day put their heart and soul into a novel just to have two catty girls dismiss it  because the author wears a bra? Why were they hating on women authors? It was like their professor told them that women can’t write and so they had to repeat the sentiment to sound smart. I would read Barbara Kingsolver over William Faulkner any day.

And so, in the spirit of defending my gender, I am posting a link to one of my favorite TED talks and it happens to be by a woman – Elizabeth Gilbert. I love her vulnerability and insight when she talks about the effect of fear on creative people.