Oprah chooses "The Many Lives of Mama Love" as newest book club pick

Oprah Winfrey announced her new book club selection, “The Many Lives of Mama Love” by Lara Love Hardin, a memoir that dives deep into Hardin’s tumultuous journey from a life marred by addiction and crime to one of profound change and empathy.

Winfrey said what she really appreciated about “The Many Lives of Mama Love” was that Hardin is still “evolving into the woman she was intended to be.” 

“I was turned on by that idea of somebody who has spent their whole life pretending to be somebody else now writes a book that is the truth of themselves,” said Winfrey.

In an interview at her northern California home, Hardin recounted her past, including her dramatic arrests for stealing credit cards and bank fraud. 

“The last time I walked through that door, I was in handcuffs,” said the author. “But I never got to come back to the house again.”

Hardin recalled her life in the small community in Aptos, California, where she made headlines being dubbed “the neighbor from hell.” She said she would sometimes hide in the bathroom of the home’s master bedroom and do drugs.

“I was just hiding in there, smoking heroin. Like, that was how small my world (was).” 

Hardin’s past includes 32 felony charges, 15 years as an addict and two failed marriages that nearly separated her from her children permanently.  She chose a plea deal to ensure she wouldn’t lose her boys. In 2009, she was sentenced to a year in jail.

“I didn’t want the next time I saw my children to have them be in their 30s,” she said.

In jail, Hardin earned the nickname “Mama Love,” helping fellow inmates by writing letters that would present them in the best light to judges. This experience, coupled with her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of California, helped her find her voice and a new purpose.

Post-jail, Hardin’s writing talent became her salvation, eventually leading her to work as a ghostwriter for notable figures, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Her collaboration with Anthony Ray Hinton on his book “The Sun Does Shine,” which was also selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, marked a significant turning point in her career.

“I was in a lot of shame and fear that Oprah would find out and what would she think of me? But now Oprah found out and look what she thinks of me,” Hardin said.

Hardin’s story isn’t just one of downfall. It’s also about her courageous battle with addiction and how she turned her life around. In her book, she discusses how sharing her story keeps her accountable.

“I think if there’s anywhere in my life where I feel like I’m pretending, that’s like, that’s my that’s my canary in the coal mine,” she said. “That’s like the trigger warning. That’s the red flag that I need to make sure things are on track in my life,” she said.

Through “The Many Lives of Mama Love,” Hardin offers a look at her life’s lows and highs, she said her relationship with her sons is a testament to the power of unconditional love. 

“I think the one thing I have done perfectly in my life is make them feel loved,” Hardin said. “Even when they were visiting me. Mother’s Day sitting in the backyard of a jail, I made them feel loved. I didn’t love them perfectly, because I didn’t love myself perfectly, but they felt loved. One of the things I’m most proud of is I feel like I, by burying, burying all of this, I feel like I’ve stopped this lineage of trauma in my family and I’ve turned and I’ve faced the past. And that is the greatest gift and legacy I’m gonna leave my children.”

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