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‘Unfollowers’: Queering faith with Leigh Ann Ruggiero

Great Falls, Montana-based novelist Leigh Ann Ruggiero, author of ‘Unfollowers’ (University of Massachusetts Press).

In this episode of The Write Question, host Lauren Korn speaks with Great Falls, Montana-based novelist Leigh Ann Ruggiero, about her debut and award-winning novel, Unfollowers, a tale of religious angst, unrequited love, and the upheaval of racial and economic privilege.

About the book:

Barb Matheson doesn’t fit in: not on the Standing Rock Reservation where her mother was born; not at the mission in rural Ethiopia where she grew up; and certainly not at the Pennsylvania church where her husband preaches. Equally adrift on both sides of the Atlantic, Barb must negotiate the distance between white America and Africa, between the spirituality of her ancestors and the straight tones of evangelicalism, and between rules and grace. When a former lover crashes her daughter’s third birthday party, she’s offered the chance to find her way home to Ethiopia, leaving her to choose between a rote life in America and an improvised life abroad.

About Leigh Ann:

Leigh Ann Ruggiero earned an MFA from the University of Maryland before moving to Montana, where she teaches literature, writing, and film at Great Falls College. She was a finalist for the 2019 Ohio Writers’ Association’s Great Novel Contest.

Leigh Ann Ruggiero recommends:

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell (HarperCollins)

The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind edited by Beth Loffreda, Cap Max King, and Claudia Rankine (Fence Books)

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)

The Portable Jung edited by Joseph Campbell (Penguin Random House)

Lauren Korn recommends:

Unfollowers by Leigh Ann Ruggiero (University of Massachusetts Press)

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon (Scribner)

Thin Places: Essays from in Between by Jordan Kisner (Picador USA)

Matrix by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books)

The poetry of Mary Oliver

The team for this episode of The Write Question included Lauren Korn, host and co-producer; Chris Moyles, co-producer, editor, and sound engineer.

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at and on Instagram @iamthemollruss. Our music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

Funding for The Write Question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and from the Greater Montana Foundation—encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans.

The Write Question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now an Arts and Culture Producer at Montana Public Radio and the host of it’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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