Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 11/03/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/03/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

>Connie May Fowler


OPRAH WINFREY REMEMBERS THE day last March when author and first-time screenwriter Connie May Fowler walked onto the Ojai, Calif., set of Before Women Had Wings. The TV movie (airing Nov. 2 on ABC and costarring Winfrey and Ellen Barkin) is based on Fowler's 1996 autobiographical novel. "She started to weep," Winfrey says, "because it was like stepping back into a part of her life she thought she'd let go." Not unlike 9-year-old Bird in the book and film (played by Tina Majorino), the now-39-year-old Fowler had grown up in a string of fleabag Florida motels with her older sister Deidre and their widowed, alcoholic and abusive mother, who died in 1979. And for a time, Fowler, like Bird, had a black woman friend as her sole source of love and support—fictionalized as Miss Zora and played by Oprah, whom Fowler calls "one of the most genuinely honest people I've ever met."

"This film has been life-changing. It's helped me walk through the door to my past and then close it," says Fowler, who these days lives with her husband, Mika, 42, a photographer, in Lloyd, Fla. They plan to watch the telecast with sister Deidre, now 45 and a first-grade teacher. "A part of her is really scared" to view it, says Fowler. "I'm going to keep my arm around her."

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