This October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month offers an opportunity for book readers to honor a woman who responded to the disease’s challenges with love and openness and who first publicly brought it to the attention of African-American women.
Memoir of a Minnie Riperton Fan is author Sheila Simmons’ journey through the life and times of Riperton, best known for her five-octave range and 1975 hit song “Lovin’ You.”
Riperton died of breast cancer at the age of 31 – but not before being named a chairperson of the American Cancer Society’s Education Crusade and accepting a Courage Award from President Jimmy Carter at the White House in 1977.
“I can’t match the admiration that people have for you,” Carter told Riperton in the 1977 ceremony. He said she filled a need for the public to portray “another aspect of human commitment, and that is the demonstration of courage and concern among those who are afflicted with cancer and who have a responsibility for those who suffer.”
Simmons says she was drawn to Riperton as a basis for her memoir through childhood memories of “Lovin’ You”.
“It was such an exquisite song and no popular singer has ever matched the purity and emotion of her voice. However, after a year of following Minnie’s life … and my encounters with Minnie’s famous friends and acquaintances (like Pam Grier and Stevie Wonder), I discovered Minnie’s legacy was actually the loving and open way in which she lived her life, even as death approached.”
NPR Book Reviewer Bobbi Booker wrote, “Like Riperton’s five-octave range, Simmons’ prose sings, hitting high notes of perfection in a unique little book you’re going to love like an old soul record.”
Memoir of a Minnie Riperton Fan is available on amazon.com.