Oprah Chooses Ayana Mathis’ Debut Novel as Next Book Club Selection

Oprah Winfrey has selected the second book in the new incarnation of her famous book club—a debut novel on the African-American Great Migration by Brooklyn author Ayana Mathis called “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.”

With the book club announcement came more Oprah news, news that she didn’t have anything to do with: Ventures Africa reported that a 61-year-old Nigerian oil tycoon, Folorunsho Alakija, had edged out Oprah as the richest black woman in the world, with a net worth of at least $3.2 billion, roughly $500 million more than Oprah’s $2.7 billion net worth. Alakija saw her net worth jump this year when Nigeria’s highest court ruled that the Nigerian government had improperly seized most of a 617,000-acre block of land she owned that was discovered to contain more than a billion barrels of oil.

In response to the book club announcement, Mathis’ publisher Alfred A. Knopf moved up publication of the book from early next year to this week. Oprah’s interview with Mathis will appear on Feb. 3 on Oprah’s show, “Super Soul Sunday,” on her embattled OWN network.

The book is about a teenager’s journey from Mississippi to Philadelphia in the 1920s and the large family she ends up raising.

“The opening pages of Ayana’s debut took my breath away,” Winfrey said in a statement. “I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.”

Oprah revived her book club back in June, calling it Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 because she said it is a “digital, online” club. She said digital versions of the books will be created specifically for her club, with special features like enabling readers to share their favorite passages and to see which passages are Oprah’s favorites.

“This is way different than the old book club because as we know, there are so many ways we can read and discuss, get together and connect these days,” she said when she announced the new book club on video.

At its height, Oprah’s Book Club turned books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces into instant bestsellers, causing writers and the publishing industry to wait with bated breath for each new selection—and even influencing some writers to craft books with elements that they thought might appeal to Oprah. Over the course of the club’s 15-year run, Oprah recommended a total of 70 books, with sales estimates for those books at about 55 million.

The first book she chose for the new incarnation of the club, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, about Strayed’s 1,100-mile journey on foot, has sold around 500,000 copies, most of that coming after Winfrey’s announcement.

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