Suze Orman: oar-mn
Suze Orman Tells All
Interviewed by Pat Holt, HoltUncensored.com,
6th February 2001.
Reprinted with the permission of Pat Holt
A little known fact about author Suze Orman emerged for all to see during her appearance last week at the Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, California.
One assumes a person who's made her living as a financial planner probably grew up getting better grades in math and science than in reading or English, and this was certainly the case with Suze.
But a speech impediment early on, it turns out, severely affected her ability to learn how to read.
"When I was growing up in Chicago, I could not pronounce my Rs, Ss or Ts," she told the audience, "so words like beautiful came out 'booda.' A name like Caretha would come out 'Kiki.'
At her elementary school, classroom seating was arranged according to reading scores, she explained. "My best friends excelled at reading and sat in the first row," she said. "I had the lowest grade in the class, so I sat in the last seat in the last row.
"I grew up thinking that because I couldn't read, I was stupid and would never amount to anything. I worked my way through college as a waitress and thought I wasn't capable of doing anything else. My grades in English were horrible, and I barely got through."
At the same time, though, Suze Orman was turning out to be a whiz-kid at math.
"The professor would work out a complicated problem on the blackboard and tell us to take a week solving it," she said. "By the time he got done showing us the problem, I had my hand raised and could give him the answer. 'Where did you get that?' he'd say, thinking I was cheating. But I saw the world numerically. I knew the answer instantly."
The result is that Suze Orman may "read all the financial books ever published," but she doesn't read anything else - not novels, not science books, not biography or history or essays or short stories.
"I'm probably the only bestselling author you know," she said to the startled audience, "who's written more books than she's read."
Until now. "On vacation I promised a friend I would read my first two books, and I did. They were 'The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood' and 'Dreaming in Cuban.' "
Did she like them? "I loved the books but I didn't like what they did to me," she said. "Prior to that I hadn't had any other voices in my head - no characters or plots. My life was all just me.
"But after I finished those books, I found myself walking around with the voice of the father, the ocean, the sisters of the Ya Ya making cookies and being fat, and I thought, 'Get out of my head!'
"So now I know I can read, but I'm almost afraid to do it. In the same way, after I write a book I don't read it -- I can't go back and look at it. Ever. It's done."
Doesn't it ever give you a feeling of inspiration to know that millions of people read your books and believe their lives have changed for the better?
"I love the feeling but am in shock about it. When my first book ["You've Earned It - Don't Lose It"] came out, I used to stand outside bookstores and ask friends to go in and see if the book was on sale. Of course it wasn't, most of the time, so I'd ask them to go back in and order it.
"Even now, I don't like to go into bookstores, don't watch myself on TV. Success is a kind of facade to me in that way."
But your message is true. You know that. "Absolutely." Then what scares you? Is it the texture of language?
"Words in print scare me. I'm more than comfortable with the texture of the spoken word," she said. "There's nothing I enjoy more than radio interviews."
But here's the great irony: Literary critics like me are drawn to Suze Orman because she so often talks like a novelist - money to her is like a character in a work of fiction.
In her second book especially ["The Nine Steps to Financial Freedom," just out in paperback], money starts out as something to be afraid of. It's crafty and elusive, increasingly unmanageable, even wild. Everyone wants to escape from it.
But as the story progresses, characters learn to face their fears about money, and we identify with them. Once we stand up to our own pasts, we can look at money as the bridge to a future we've never imagined.
Soon we're in a relationship with money. We want to know where it is every day, and where it is going. We put up signs everywhere - on the refrigerator and in our calendars and checkbooks - to help us give money its due. To know when to parcel it out, and when to let it grow.
We learn to stop accepting substitutes and imposters, like those hated villains, plastic credit cards.
Eventually we find ourselves on such intimate terms with money that we like to take it out and rearrange it all the time, and to touch it all over.
So by the end of the story, money becomes, as Suze promises, a "trusted friend" - something we've come to respect, even to love.
And what a wonderful word is "trust" - everybody's looking for a financial planner you can trust, but when we do all the exercises in "The Nine Steps," we realize that all Suze ever does is hold up a mirror that we can read for our own truths.
And Suze, remember: that's just what a good novel does.
Copyright Pat Holt 2001. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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