Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Debbie Rigaud

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Debbie Rigaud

Debbie Rigaud is the co-author of Alyssa Milano’s Hope series and the author of Truly Madly Royally. She grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, and started her career writing for entertainment and teen magazines. She now lives with her husband and children in Columbus, Ohio.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

“Love your hands! Love them. Raise they up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either…You got to love it, you.”
– Baby Suggs

When I was asked who my literary hero is, I knew the answer right away. It’s Baby Suggs, the elderly grandmother in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

When I first read Beloved, I reacted to Baby Suggs’s majesty and to the story Toni Morrison weaved, by hugging the book after I’d finished reading it. Like, I actually held it to my heart and physically embraced the book. I don’t remember if I was in high school or college, but that move is pretty much on brand for me. I’m the girl people ask why I smile so often. I’m that chick more comfortable discussing the ethereal than the hard facts. (But no need to run for the hills if you see me. I definitely don’t lead with that. And I can werk a pedestrian-mean-mug like any city girl.)

To me, Baby Suggs is not just a literary hero. She’s real. Perhaps she felt this familiar because elderly people played a vital part of my upbringing. I was brought up to glean the meaning behind Baby Suggs’ words and intonation. I was trained to decode her stares and whole-face-and-body expressions. I was steered toward spiritual messages that waft and fill the senses like a home-cooked Sunday dinner.

My godmother (my mom’s aunt) lived with my family and helped raised my sisters and me. I was grown and nurtured by a Baby Suggs kind of love. Baby Suggs loves as fiercely as the women who raised me. Like Baby Suggs, these women would give their last breath to breathe life into me. Though most of them have passed on, I’m still covered by the prayers they whispered over me.

So, to encounter this very familiar Baby Suggs in the pages of a book – a celebrated book — meant the world to me. Baby Sugg’s clarion call for self-love felt validating. It’s something I’ve always known to be true — that it’s not soft, corny, simple or stupid to lead with love. And Baby Suggs is telling those of us who do that we are legit for feeling this way. For leaning this way. Yeah, people still ask me why I smile so much, why I’m so “nice”, why I’m “friendly.” But even if I catch the odd insult and judgment in their meaning, I remain unapologetically me. And Baby Suggs helped me get here.

My elderly godmother who helped raise me gave me a tremendous gift. She enveloped me in a nonjudgmental, unconditional love. She accepted me as I am. She provided that safe space, just as Baby Sugg’s clearing in the woods became a safe space for those who gathered for her sermons. Baby Suggs knew the importance of safe spaces. She knew the importance of the families we form with those who understand. Those who know. She was keenly aware that for these folks, love was a revolutionary act.

So, yes, I imagine Baby Suggs is somewhere still exhorting to us on a cellular level: “…hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.” Because love is a revolutionary act even today, when, let’s face it — anti-Blackness is corroding so many hearts and minds. I let her exhortations be my spiritual armor as I combat the ill effects that threaten to crush spirits and shorten lives.

When I write, I hope the reader connects to the heart of my stories. And when I smile, I imagine the brief connections made in passing are an exchange of healing love.

Title Truly Madly Royally
Author Debbie Rigaud
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date July 30th 2019 by Point
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

An #ownvoices Point Paperback original that is like The Princess Diaries for this generation – pure wish-fulfillment fun, from new talent Debbie Rigaud.

Zora Emerson is not here to play. She’s enrolled in a prestigious summer program, and is ready to use what she’s learning to change the world (or at least her corner of New Jersey, for now).

Zora’s not expecting to vibe with any of her super-privileged classmates. So she’s shocked to find she’s got chemistry with Owen Whittelsey, who is charming, funny, undeniably cute…and turns out to literally be a prince. As in, his parents are the king and queen of a small European country. What?

Suddenly, Zora’s summer is looking a lot more complicated – especially when Owen asks her to be his date at his older brother’s wedding. Can her feelings for Owen, not to mention her sense of self, survive the royal chaos?

Debbie Rigaud brings sparkling humor and insight to this empowering romantic comedy that’s all about ruling your own destiny.

One response to “Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Debbie Rigaud”

  1. This was such a fun post and I can’t wait to read Debbie’s book! Thanks so much for sharing, Jen!
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