Monday, May 29, 2023

Virtual Book Tour + #Giveaway: Girl Hidden by Jesse Rene Gibbs @GoddessFish

Girl Hidden

by Jesse Ren'e Gibbs

GENRE: Memoir


Echoing among the Blue Ridge Mountains were the cries of newborn babies that disappeared into the night. The screams of children nearly drowned out by the sound of crickets. A girl, hidden and waiting to be found, terrified, and confused. The fireflies sparkling in the woods, bringing light to darkled places.

The bulk of Jesse’s memories were of growing up in the farm country of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. The farm folks stayed pretty much outside of town, except for visits to the feed store causing random tractors to travel down Main Street. There were beatings and abuses, manipulation and terror carried out in spaces breathtaking in their beauty. There were twenty-seven Baptist churches, three non-denominational churches, and one Catholic Church.

There were annual Ku Klux Klan rallies on the street where they would walk right by all the black families who came out to watch and the white folks who came out for moral support—whether of the blacks or the whites, no one knew for sure. Black people did not marry white people in a civilized society, and so were rarely seen socializing. There was a young woman who was pregnant with a black man’s baby, so her parents disowned her. Jesse’s family was accused of killing the child and burying it on their property.

There was the Berkley House Bed and Breakfast toward the end of town, with gold plated silverware and hardwood floors, rumored to be the local sex worker house. There was a mansion up on a hill that overlooked the other humble houses in the town. In the local cemetery, there was “Will B. Jolly” carved into the graves used by bootleggers back in the twenties. Everyone had some form of thick southern drawl, though the length of the “aw” would extend the further south you went. There was a tiny baseball field and a tinier fire department. There was an old lady in the foothills that let the family raid her garden during the summer. And in exchange, Jesse’s family helped her husband bring in the hay for their animals every year.

There was a black snake in the attic—the door opened inside the closet next to Jesse’s bed. She would find his shed skins left behind in the summer months measuring close to seven feet in length. There was a creek with crawdads and a moss-covered bridge. There were mulberry and pecan trees that filled her and her siblings’ aching bellies as the weather turned.

There were hot summer days and freezing cold winters. There were dogs that were best friends, cats that kept her warm at night, and a cow that committed suicide. There was red clay instead of dirt, hayfields instead of grass, and a favorite swimming hole: Lenny’s Mill, the local grain mill on a glacier-fed creek where you could take a dip if you were brave enough to challenge the frigid waters.

Girl Hidden is the story of an unwanted child, born nonetheless and forced into servitude, desperate to protect her siblings and find her way out from under the vicious, manipulative abuses heaped on her by the one person who was supposed to love her unconditionally: her mother.

Purchase Girl Hidden on Amazon


He was standing with his hands over his face. His back was shaking. Jesse slowly walked in front of him and stood there, silently watching as the sobs wracked his body. She reached up and touched his arm, startling him for a moment. Tears filled her eyes. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly. She started weeping, her tears dripping onto his shirt. They held each other for a moment as the world seemed to stop turning around them.

Jesse pulled away from him and wiped her eyes. Robert looked down at her and stuttered a little as he tried to put words to his feelings.

She looked up into his eyes. “Poppa,” she said, stopping his attempts to speak. “I cannot be the grown-up for both of us. I’m not… I’m not strong enough!” Fresh tears spilled down her cheeks, washing away the last of the makeup that she had so meticulously applied earlier that day. “Please, Poppa.”

Jesse took a deep breath, pulled herself together, lifted her chin, and walked back into the room with the black-and-white tile floor. Robert stood in the hallway and watched her go. His stepdaughter would never depend on him again. His heart broke a little more, but he knew that there was nothing he could do about it. He forced himself to wipe his eyes again and walk back into the room.

Interview with Jesse Rene Gibbs

 What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?

Honestly, I don’t have a schedule. Girl Hidden is a book written when I had space to walk through the memories, do research or interviews and write. It took nearly twenty-five years, and I would write the version of my story and my memories that I knew to be true, then I would page through my mother’s letters, my grandmother’s journals or just do online research until I was able to nail down the full truth.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I seriously considered it, but since Girl Hidden is a memoir, it didn’t make sense. I did, however, change most of the names in this book to protect the innocent, anonymize the less innocent, make space for healing, and mollify the just plain grumpy.

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Yes and SO hard. Part of it was just struggling to put my story on the page and part of it was not wanting to sort through my memories. I went through a lot of therapy during the writing of the book which forced me to face some of the awful experiences and abuse that I experienced which would allow me to finally get back to writing. I also had my best friend, June, to help carry me through. She is my rock, and I don’t know what I would have done without her daily encouragement.

Does your family support your career as a writer

That’s a hard question to answer; Girl Hidden calls out the abuse that I experienced at the hands of a narcissistic mother and a stepfather who treated me like his girlfriend, so I am guessing - since I haven’t had a relationship with them in years - that they were none to pleased. My siblings, who also survived severe abuse, have been very supportive.

How many hours a day do you write?

It literally depends on the day and what I have space for. Writing about abuse is a hard topic and it can be very draining. Sometimes it just pours out of me and sometimes I must dig for the strength to walk through the memories.

If you could invite any three people for dinner, whom would you invite?

Oh, I love this question! It would have to be Michelle Obama, Robert Fulgum (one of my favorite authors) and Christopher Titus (one of my favorite comedians.)

Would you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?

The story of how I met my best friend June is often asked about; June is an important friend in my life and someone who I consider my rock. Our connection was immediate, and it made me believe in the concept of love at first sight.

June was only seventeen years old when she visited her older brother at the inner-city commune where I lived. Her father, who was getting remarried, was no longer interested in being a parent, so he provided her with a one-way ticket to Chicago and essentially left her on her own. June's older brother was friends with my ex-husband, so I did him a favor and picked her up from the airport on her arrival. By the time we got to baggage claim we were best friends. We later discovered that our grandparents had been friends for over thirty years, but we had never met until then. It felt like we were meant to find each other.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

Girl Hidden is the story of my life, and it was written first and foremost for me. It was important to stay true to myself and my story. You’ll notice that the book is written in third person and that’s because I don’t personally enjoy reading stories written in first person. It was much more of a challenge, but I wanted to write a story that I would want to read. Over the course of the writing, I realized that this story was becoming a survivors guide for others who have experienced and survived abuse or narcissistic relationships. 

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

I had a tiny little celebration in my office, nothing official, just a little dance party. Hearing the audiobook for the first time was another little celebration. It was just so cool to complete something so daunting.

If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?

Robert Fulgum, all the way. If you haven’t read All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, go get it right now. He writes the way I have always wanted to. He’s funny and poignant, kind, and knowledgeable. I appreciate his writing and storytelling so much. I sat down for breakfast with him at Pike Place Market in Seattle many years ago and he’s just as incredible in person.  

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

My name is Jesse René Gibbs and I am the author of Girl Hidden. I am an artist, designer, dancer and survivor. I am a stepmother to four, Amma to four more and blessed beyond measure with the family that I chose.

This book is based on the true story of my life, gleaned from years of my mother’s writings, my grandmother’s journals and my own experiences. I did my best to showcase the depth of damage that growing up with a narcissistic parent can have on a person, and how hard it is to come to terms with the amount of gaslighting that comes with that life. My siblings all have their own stories of being played against each other, bullied and even emotionally tortured by our parents. We were trained to not trust our own intuition, raised in a life of poverty, a lack of privacy and the endlessly traumatizing purity culture.

I was hunted in my own home by the man my mother married and escaped at nineteen only to land in an intentional community in Chicago that did nearly as much damage. My best friend in the book is also real, and she did more to walk me through my trauma, and she is the main reason that these stories were finally published.

My new life in Seattle didn’t start until well into my thirties, and I’m still working on deconstructing my life up to that point. I wrote this book to organize my life in my own mind and to undo years of lies. I also wrote it because others need to know that they are not alone.

Jesse Ren'e Gibbs

Email ~ Website ~ Instagram ~ Facebook ~ TicTok



$25 Amazon/BN GC

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Rita Wray said...

Sounds like a good read.

Marcy Meyer said...

I like the cover. Looks great.

Sherry said...

This sounds like a good book and I really like the cover.

pippirose said...

The book sounds very interesting. Love the cover!

Ally Swanson - FAB said...

Great post!! I really enjoyed reading the author interview!!

Anonymous said...

thank you SO much for hosting!

Bridgett Wilbur said...

Great excerpt.