“Oprah’s Book Club” contributed greatly to helping well-known and lesser-known black writers gain exposure to mainstream reading audiences. Founded in September 1996, Winfrey’s book club ran until December 2010, and several different writers were featured on her talk show to discuss the selected texts. Four of Toni Morrison’s novels were featured as selections in the book club. Morrison’s sales, as a result, increased substantially. More significantly, Morrison’s exposure to wider audiences increased.
John K. Young, author of Black Writers, White Publishers explains that Winfrey’s ability to consistently feature Morrison and her work helped to “remake her audiences” for The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), and Paradise (1997). Accordingly, Morrison’s benefited from Winfrey’s market power and the interactions between Morrison’s novels and “Oprah’s Book Club” contributed to redrawing “the lines among art, commodity, publisher, and reader” (132).
Winfrey’s influence on African American literature actually transcends the selling and buying of novels. In 1998, Winfrey produced a movie version of Morrison’s Beloved (1987). Even though the film received mixed reviews, the movie did assist in bringing more attention to Morrison’s work.
Winfrey’s ability influence the physical production, medium of presentation, and advertisement practices of the novels contributed greatly to how readers gained exposure to Toni Morrison and her novels. Winfrey linked her brand and, more importantly, her millions of viewers to Morrison’s works, which raised the novelist’s popular culture recognition and book sales.