Book signing: Asheville native Sheila Simmons’ memoir inspired by Minnie Riperton

Asheville is just one of the settings in Sheila Simmons’ Memoir of a Minnie Riperton Fan, which the Asheville native will sign Saturday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m. at Firestorm Café & Books, 610 Haywood Road, in West Asheville.

Simmon’s book examines the life and times of her childhood idol, Minnie Riperton, a 1970s singer best known for her five-octave range and the 1975 hit song, “Lovin’ You.” After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Riperton became one of the first celebrities to go public with her diagnosis. The book also takes readers on her trek to Chicago, Los Angeles, Acapulco, New York and Gainesville, Fla.

Sheila Simmons
Sheila Simmons

Simmons is a former reporter with Philadelphia Daily News and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She quit her job at the Plain Dealer in 1999, according to an article on and “loaded up her white Mazda MX3 and set off on a quest to write a biography about her childhood idol, the late 1970s-era singer Minnie Riperton. … Simmons was 9 years old in 1975 — the year that “Lovin’ You” made it to No. 1 on the Billboard chart.”

Riperton, who died in 1979 at the age of 31, of breast cancer, received a courage award from president Jimmy Carter and was an early advocate for women battling breast cancer and still live a happy and fulfilling life.

“Writing this book was a lovely, musical and personal journey for me,” Simmons says, “one filled with adventure, music, laughs, frustration and faith. I hope Minnie fans and music fans everywhere find in this book the same comfort and inspiration I drew from the late, great Minnie Riperton.”

The following is from a press release about Simmons’ upcoming appearance at Firestorm:

In the book ($12, CreateSpace) Simmons documents Riperton’s early girl-group years, her tours with a multiracial rock group, her brilliant solo career and her acceptance of a Courage Award from President Jimmy Carter.

The late singer Minnie Riperton
The late singer Minnie Riperton

Meanwhile, alongside the singer’s life, runs the details of the author’s own background as well as the lessons she learns in tracking the songstress’ life, family and famous acquaintances like Pam Grier, Stevie Wonder and Muhammad Ali’s wife Khalilah, in such places as Chicago, New York, Gainesville, Fla., Acapulco, and Los Angeles.

Dyana Williams, a veteran broadcaster and celebrity strategist who served as a music consultant for “The Soul of VH1,” called the book, “an illuminating and compelling exploration of the life of one of the most underrated and exquisite voices ever to grace a microphone. It also shares the amazing life journey of mother, journalist, educator, community leader and cultural advocate Sheila Simmons. This book is for those who appreciate great music, artistry, romance and living an impressionable life.”

Simmons currently runs a writing and consulting firm in Philadelphia, and worked as a Communications Director for Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter. Her extensive newspaper writing spans two decades and such publications as Philadelphia Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Raleigh News & Observer and Asheville Citizen-Times. She is the mom of a 12-year-old son.

“Memoir of a Minnie Riperton Fan” is also available here on

About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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