Author Archives: normatalksaboutwriting

#Me, too

75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room, Beverly Hills, USA - 07 Jan 2018

If you did not hear Oprah Winfrey’s speech last night at the Golden Globes, it’s worth reading.

Here is a full transcript:


In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee, watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. And I’ve tried many, many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl — a kid watching from the cheap seats, as my mom came through the door bone-tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation’s in Sidney’s performance in “Lilies of the Field”: “Amen, amen. Amen, amen.” In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.

It is an honor, and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them, and also with the incredible men and women who’ve inspired me, who’ve challenged me, who’ve sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson, who took a chance on me for “A.M. Chicago”; Quincy Jones, who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, “Yes, she is Sophia in ‘The Color Purple’”; Gayle, who’s been the definition of what a friend is; and Stedman, who’s been my rock — just a few to name. I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because we all know that the press is under siege these days.

But we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before, as we try to navigate these complicated times. Which brings me to this: What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell. And this year we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace.

So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault, because they — like my mother — had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farmworkers; they are working in factories and they work in restaurants, and they’re in academia and engineering and medicine and science; they’re part of the world of tech and politics and business; they’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.

And they’re someone else: Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and a mother. She was just walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Ala., when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped and left blindfolded by the side of the road, coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the N.A.A.C.P., where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived, as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.

And I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth — like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented — goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’s heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery. And it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man — who chooses to listen. In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave: to say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. And I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning — even during our darkest nights.

So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too’ again. Thank you.”

Racism-1962 and now

The past came home when BBC Radio’s “Witness” program interviewed me about the day over half a century ago when James Meredith became the first black American to register at the University of Mississippi. (Click the link above to listen)

Gov Ross Barnett

Once again I heard the voice of Governor Ross Barnett promising segregation forever.

At an Ole Miss football game the weekend before, he stirred the crowd to fight integration.

Gov Ross Barnett2

I heard the voices of broadcasters describing the riots that occurred that fateful night in Oxford, Mississippi.

the riots

Two died and many were injured.

Meredith registered and attended classes, accompanied by federal protection until the day he graduated.


Surely, times are better for people of color today–but the old fears linger and percolate.


As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” .


Today is the birthday of my new book!

birthday w:fireworksFriday, September 1, 2017, is  publication day for my new memoir, That Woman From Mississippi 


Plus the first paperback edition of the previous memoir: The Last Resort


Here are the independent bookstores where you can find them.

Celebrating Books

Les and I spent a very warm (heat index 112 degrees) few days in Mississippi celebrating books–the people who write them and the people who read them. The Mississippi Bookfest  was held at the State Capitol, wonderfully grand and cool inside

Miss State Capitol

and hot as you can imagine out on the lawn where we signed books.

signing outside

My panel was called “Her Story,” and featured five of us. Susan Cushman moderated and is author of A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be; Mary Ann Connell is a pioneering Mississippi lawyer and author of the memoir, An Unforeseen Life; Jessica Harris, food historian and author, came with her memoir My Soul Looks Back, which describes living in New York with everyone we wished we’d been fortunate enough to know; Suzanne Marrs, is a scholar of Eudora Welty. Her latest book is Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald.

Marrs recalled Eudora telling her about one of the dreadful stories I wrote in her creative writing class at Millsaps: Two old women get rid of unpleasant people by carving them up and putting them down the disposal. Marrs said, “Eudora got such a kick out of that.” I blush remembering.

I was there with the sequel to The Last Resort, That Woman From Mississippi, both coming out in paperback September 1 from Nautilus Publishing.


Here are a few places you can get one–or both:

Read localbd

Nautilus Publishing, Oxford, Mississippi

Lemuria, Jackson, Mississippi

Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

Gallery Bookshop, Mendocino, CA

Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

Union Ave. Books, Knoxville, TN

Malaprops, Asheville, NC

City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC

and, of course, on Amazon.



On my way to Mississippi

Miss map

I’m on my way to Mississippi (which I expect to be the temperature of this image),  celebrating early the September 1 publication of my new book at the Mississippi Book Festival . This is a sequel to The Last ResortTHAT WOMAN FROM MISSISSIPPI–the story of what happened to that woman in 1966, after she drove off down the road with a civil rights lawyer.

Be there button.jpg

Doug Fortier, my social media guru, made a button for my husband Les to wear. If I had fifty friends left in Mississippi, I’d make them wear one, too.

If you’re nearby, we will be telling “Her Story” in State Capitol Room A, Saturday, August 19, 12-1pm.

TWFM button.png

More to come . . .

On this day without women, a new way to do business

March 8 is International Women’s Day, marked this year as a National Day Without Women.

I hope you’ll be wearing red, not shopping, or shopping only at woman-owned businesses, paying with CASH.

Speaking of women, here’s a little good news:

In the Saturday March 5, 2017, San Francisco Chronicle,  Caille Millner wrote about a woman-owned firm called Soko.

Soko makes jewelry, but the business model is brilliant. Surely it could be replicated for any product women can produce at home.

Here’s how it works: Soko does high speed production, but instead of using a factory, the jewelry is made by artisans working at home or in small workshops It’s done using an amazing technical platform on mobile phones.

When an order comes in, say for 2500 necklaces for Nordstrom, the artisans receive their assignments through their phones. Each artist makes only a manageable number of pieces, but the database of artists is large enough to produce the order in the same time a large factory could–two weeks.

The workers are paid through their phones and the average artisan makes enough to send all her kids to school, feed her family, and save.

If you know what people are afraid of, you know how to reach them


Mick LaSalle (movie reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle), had a brilliant piece Sunday. Making the point that Oscar-nominated movies are not the big box office hits, he wrote about what the majority of Americans prefer to see at the movies.

“So people are not flocking to the best movies. They’re not flocking even to the movies they believe to be the best. Instead they’re paying to see alien invasions, malevolent AI and civic chaos, films showing either the destruction of the world as we know it . . .or a post-apocalyptic world, with humanity forced to endure a dystopian nightmare.

“What does the persistent popularity of these recurrent themes tell us? . . .The fear of alien invasion is an elaboration and distortion of the fear of immigration. The fear of artificial intelligence taking over is a disguised wariness of automation, of computers taking away our jobs. And the depictions of civic chaos . . . is a manifestation of the modern fear of terrorism. . . .

“As the dominant themes of our films, they probably can be called the dominant fears of our historical moment. They may even help explain the result of the 2016 presidential election. Once you know what people are afraid of, you know how to reach them.”


10 Top-Selling Movies of 2016                     9 Oscar-Nominated Best Films of 2016

 Captain America: Civil War                                          MoonLight

Rogue One                                                                          La La Land

Finding Dory                                                                    Manchester by the Sea

Zootopia                                                                             Hidden Figures

Jungle Book                                                                       Lion

The Secret Life of Pets                                                     Fences

Batman v. Superman                                                     Hacksaw Ridge

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them                Arrival

Deadpool                                                                            Hell or High Water

Suicide Squad.