HARRIS: It was a pleasure to meet you. I’ll read that book you recommended.
RORY: And don’t be fooled by the Oprah seal on the cover, it’s actually very good.
Rory refers to Oprah’s Book Club, a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which highlighted books selected by the host, Oprah Winfrey. It ran from 1996 until 2011 (with a hiatus in 2002), and in that time it recommended 70 books. Because of the book club’s popularity, previously obscure works could become bestsellers, making an Oprah’s Book Club seal on the cover a highly influential piece of marketing.
Rory does not tell Richard (or the viewer) which book she recommended to the Dean of Admissions. However, due to the aforesaid hiatus, Oprah’s Book Club only recommended two works in 2002. My guess is that Rory recommended Sula, a 1973 novel by Toni Morrison, and her second published work.
The novel is set in the 1920s and ’30s in a fictional small town in Ohio (a favourite setting for Dawn Powell stories, one of Rory’s most admired authors). It is about two black girls named Nel and Sula who are close friends, but who take different paths in life (rather like Rory and Lane). While Nel chooses marriage, motherhood, and the close bonds of the town’s black community, Sula goes to college, lives in the city, and defies conventional sexual morality, bringing down condemnation from the town’s community.
It feels like a book which Rory would be interested in, and would also think suitable to recommend to a Dean, since it is by a Nobel Prize winning author, and the plot involves college and female education.