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'Jeopardy!' champion Amy Schneider changed TV. Now, she's writing a book about her experience

"I want to share the life-changing benefits that come from being curious about the most important subject in the world: yourself,” Schneider, the show's most successful woman contestant, tells
Schneider became the most successful female contestant in 'Jeopardy!' show history. Now, she's writing a memoir.
Schneider became the most successful female contestant in 'Jeopardy!' show history. Now, she's writing a memoir.Jeopardy, Simon and Schuster
/ Source: TODAY

She’s the most successful woman contestant in "Jeopardy!" show history, and she’s releasing a memoir. 

Answer: Who is Amy Schneider?

With a 40-game winning streak, Schneider also became the first openly transgender contestant to qualify for, and win, the Tournament of Champions. She's second only to Ken Jennings, now co-host, who has won 74 consecutive games.

Her record-breaking achievements are no surprise to her eighth-grade classmates, who decades ago named her “Most likely to appear on 'Jeopardy!'” 

Now, the champion is releasing her personal story, “In the Form of a Question,” on Oct. 3. But it’s more than just a traditional memoir. In the pages, Schneider shares her pursuit of asking questions about the world and herself. The book, she says, comes out of the questions she's asked the most often.

“How do you know all that stuff?”

'In the Form of a Question' by Amy Schneider

Simon & Schuster

Schneider answers, "When I thought about it, I realized that one of the main reasons I know all that stuff is that I am curious, that I enjoy learning new things, and so I seek them out, not for any practical value they might turn out to have, but simply for the pleasure of learning them. And I think that curiosity is something that anyone can cultivate in themselves, and that doing so will bring huge benefits, even if it never leads to winning a game show. In particular, the biggest benefit is from being curious about yourself. Knowing stuff is why I was able to appear on 'Jeopardy!' But knowing myself is why I was able to be so successful once I got there."

While she’s already answered most of the trivia questions (think: economics, science, pop culture) in front of millions on television, she’s now diving into personal ones (think: family, religion, sexuality) in her new book.

"I shared dozens of 20-second anecdotes about myself on 'Jeopardy!,' but there’s much more to my story, and I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to share it with the world,” she says.

With this openness came the affection of millions who rooted for her success. Schneider even became a role model for the openly queer and transgender people across the globe, and acted as an introduction to the trans community for some "Jeopardy!" viewers.

"I knew before the episodes aired that for many viewers, this would be the first time they had seen a trans person, particularly in this kind of context, and I certainly hoped to represent my community well. But I never imagined that I would hear from so many people that someone in their lives had completely changed their beliefs about trans people, just from seeing me on 'Jeopardy!" she says.

She hopes she her "Jeopardy!" appearance plays a role in positive representation. "Real life trans people aren’t scary, or mentally ill, or any of the other things people try to paint us as. We’re just, well, people, and I’ll forever be proud and grateful that I enabled so many people to learn that for themselves.

Throughout her book, Schneider certainly sticks to that "Jeopardy!" format that she knows so well.

She tackles topics by posing questions — and then answering — ones like “what is mental health?” and even “why so much drama around bathrooms?" And she’s hoping readers are inspired to start asking questions, too.

“I want to share the life-changing benefits that come from being curious about the most important subject in the world: yourself,” Schneider says.

As for how to win trivia? Schneider has some advice.

"Don’t study, learn. What I mean by that is, don’t treat expanding your trivia knowledge like it’s homework, or a chore. Don’t study things that don’t interest you, because you won’t remember them anyway. Find things you actually want to know more about, read up on them, and then keep an eye out for different topics that might branch out from there," she says.

"I recommend reading more history, because it provides almost infinite topics to dig into, and ties everything together in a framework that will help you build the mental associations that are key for actually remembering the facts you’ve learned when you need them."

Growing up in a loving but strict German Catholic family in Dayton, Ohio, Schneider found herself in theater roles before landing a career as a software engineer. She later moved to Oakland, California, where she came out as a transgender woman, and still currently resides there with her wife.

"In the Form of a Question" will be released by Avid Reader Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

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