I grew up when jelly shoes were standard footwear, MTV actually played music, and my only responsibility was to my Tamagotchi that I never remembered to feed. For this next book review, I had to do a bit of research, because programs like “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” were a little before my time. I also did a bit of interviewing with my mom, who told me soap operas were like Bravo and TLC are now-the only thing to watch, kind of a hot mess, but you had to tune in each week to see what happened next.
Agnes Nixon was a feminist before the world even knew what that was. She was one of the first female writers and producers in the soap opera industry, and through her platforms she addressed several important issues that hadn’t been discussed on television. Think interracial relationships, drug addiction, women’s health (e.g. abortion and contraception), and politics. By pairing social commentary with her seamless storylines, Nixon was able to go where no male writer or producer had gone before her. Her shows soared in popularity, which in turn positioned ABC to become the powerhouse company it is today.
Nixon uses this book to not only share the in’s and out’s of producing soap operas, but also reveals an intimate window into what was going on in her life while these shows were airing. The book opens with a simple line about how Agnes was named after her mother, a “single, working mother who provided for (her) while (they) lived with her parents and sisters at a time when most women didn’t work outside of the home.” To me, this was one of the most poignant lines of the whole book. It sets Agnes up to be the protagonist every mom wants her little girl to become-strong, independent, and confident in her abilities to accomplish anything.
The book goes on to chronicle Nixon’s life as she grows up and how her family life was a strong influence on the characters she would later write into her shows. She details personal relationships that brought her love and loss, but in the end, it is her relationship with herself that proves the most valuable…because in the end, that’s all we have, right?
Another great moment in the book is when Nixon talks about her casting process and how she knew that a diverse cast would bring her shows the most support; they would be a “powerful weapon for social change…(because no one can resist) beloved characters struggling on opposite sides of a polarizing issue.”
It’s no wonder that many years later Nixon won the lifetime achievement Emmy for her contributions to the film industry. She was a woman who was wildly ahead of her time, and that is what makes this book so great. I’d definitely recommend this book to older and generations alike, because like myself, who wasn’t around when Nixon’s shows first aired, I can still appreciate and learn from a woman who took one look at societal expectations of women and threw them at the wind.
Bravo, Agnes Nixon. Thank you for being a trailblazer for the many generations that have come after you.
Score Card: Cover Art 5/5 | Content 5/5 | Ease of Read 5/5
I was provided a complimentary copy of this text in exchange for my honest thoughts after reading it.