> Zed Book Club / Oprah Hopes Her New Book Will Move You From Blame to Empathy

Oprah Winfrey begins a virtual book tour for "What Happened to You?", her new book about trauma, resiliency and healing. Photo: Vera Anderson/WireImage

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Oprah Hopes Her New Book Will Move You From Blame to Empathy

/ BY Sue Grimbly / April 28th, 2021

You might think you have trouble sleeping, but I bet you have nothing on Oprah Winfrey. The cherished talk-show host, who climbed her way out of poverty in rural Mississippi to build a multi-billion-dollar media empire, is once again in the limelight with a shocking new book. Written with neuroscientist Dr. Bruce D. Perry, What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing serves up the usual self-help-book goodies, such as scientific and emotional insights into behavioural patterns. What sets it apart are her big reveals about early childhood trauma, some involving the grandparents who raised her.

What Happened To You


In an ET report featuring video clips from Oprah’s April 29 interview on The Dr. Oz Show, part of her virtual book tour, she recounts the time her grandmother whipped her with a switch so badly the welts on her back started to bleed, spoiling her church dress.

In a clip from the Dr. Oz interview, she tears up as she describes the domestic violence she witnessed.

“My grandmother and I slept in the bed together. My grandfather was in a room on the other side of the wall and one night in the middle of the night, my grandfather gets out of bed and comes into the room,” she recalls. “And I wake up and he has his hands around my grandmother’s neck and she is screaming.” This, and other childhood trauma – she was raped at nine and molested between the ages of 10 and 14 ­­­– made her feel unsafe for years. In one iconic line from the book, she writes: “I rarely remember feeling loved.”

Both fans and those suffering traumas will find fresh insights. Dr. Perry, who among other positions, is the senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, TX, wants to change the current approach to resolving early adverse experiences, which shape our lives down the road. Hence the title.

As Oprah says on Instagram, “We hope that through these pages, we help people hold more empathy for themselves and others as we learn to shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”


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