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Great Falls College faculty member publishes debut novel

Leigh Ann Ruggiero
Leigh Ann Ruggiero
Leigh Ann Ruggiero
Posted at 8:44 AM, Feb 28, 2022

GREAT FALLS — Leigh Ann Ruggiero, a professor at Great Falls College MSU, recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing a book. Now, after ten years, her book is finally finished and about a month away from publication.

“It’s just sort of been this epic project for the last ten years of my life. So, it feels very satisfying to actually get it published now,” she said.

The book, called "Unfollowers," touches on racial, cultural, and ethnic views while depicting a modern day hero just trying to find her place in the world. Many communities are touched upon, making it easy for anyone to find a piece of themselves within the pages.

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. Expansive and lyrical, Unfollowers is a tale of religious angst, unrequited love, and the upheaval of racial and economic privilege.

Leigh Ann explained, “The case of characters is very diverse in terms of identity – whether that’s cultural identity, ethnic identity, racial identity, or even gender identity. That’s something that’s important for me to write. To be able to ethically represent other communities and of course trying to do that to the best of my ability and with respect”

One goal of hers was to submit to author awards that would result in publication and last year, she had won an award with the University of Massachusetts Press.

“I hadn’t checked my email all day and then, of course that was the day I was checking my email at 7 pm. I was like is this real? I was alone in my house, I had to wait for my partner to come back so that I could be excited with them. But yeah, I did call my mom right away,”

It was a long, ten year project, and now the time for it to be read by book lovers all over the world is here, and Leigh Ann couldn’t be more thrilled.

“I don’t think I’ll ever quite grasp the concept of people reading my work. It’s a surreal feeling for sure”

Right now the book, Unfollowers is available for pre-order at Amazon.