Jeannette Walls and Oprah

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To Jeannette's horror, her vagabond parents trailed her to New York. Even though Jeannette and her sister tried to help their mother and father with housing, her parents chose to remain homeless. As she lived in the lap of luxury, her parents slept on the streets. Embarrassed by their position in life, Jeanette pleaded with her parents not to tell anyone they were related.

Jeannette realized she could no longer live the lie when, on her way to a party, she saw a woman rooting around in a dumpster—the woman was her mother. "To my eternal shame," Jeannette says, "I slid down in the back of the taxi and hid."

Jeannette says it wasn't until she began writing her book, The Glass Castle, that she began to learn to accept and understand her parents' lifestyle. Oprah also played a role in inspiring Jeannette to shed her shame. While covering the launch of O, The Oprah Magazine, Jeannette interviewed Editor at Large Gayle King. "I said, 'What makes Oprah Winfrey special?'" Jeannette remembers. "She said, 'While Oprah's pulling herself up with one hand, she's pulling other people up with the other hand.' It made me really think about my own life because I'd been very selfish in trying to get ahead."