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
"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
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.