By Its Cover: The Duggar Book Signing

By Its Cover: The Duggar Book Signing March 14, 2014


The littlest Duggar girls

by Suzanne Titkemeyer cross posted from her blog True Love Doesn’t Rape

or White Privilege, Judgmentalism and Duggars, Oh Boy!

Warning: This is long and I talk a great deal about how my daughter was treated by “Good Christians”. These are my impressions, not necessarily the views of anyone else. I didn’t say much about Michelle Duggar. Saving that for another post since I’m still sorting out my thoughts upon meeting her.

Yesterday I took a little trip from my bungalow in Washington DC/Northern Virginia suburbia to another Northern Virginia section of suburbia to see TLC’s “19 Kids & Counting” Duggars up close and in person. I took my college-aged daughter Laura from her studies at George Mason to the signing of Jana, Jill, Jinger and Jessa’s book, “Growing Up Duggar”

We’d decided to have a fun outing and then go to the book signing late last week. I have to admit I was curious as to Laura’s view of young ladies in her own age bracket that still toed many of the same religious lines we’d both done back in our days in Fundamentalism and Evangelical circles. Little did I realize when we made our plans to attend the signing at Alexandria’s Family Christian Bookstore that the encounter would reveal much to me about the nature of judging a book by its cover.

That particular Family Christian Bookstore is on Route 1, a mere stones throw from Mount Vernon and Fort Belvoir, both places that represent freedom. Freedom in the shadow of religious oppression.

Encouragement card

Once we arrived at the strip mall holding this store and a host of other stores we could see that the parking lot was full up. Imagine my surprise when I realized that there were more people at this book signing than at one last year at a nearby Barnes and Noble for a former President of the United States. The sad truth is that Americans appear to be more eager to rub elbows with reality television stars instead of leaders and great humanitarians.

The store held a line of white middle class ladies wearing mom jeans with little girls here and there. Some men, some boys and absolutely no people of color at all, unless you counted the several African Americans working the store registers. It was crowded and somewhat chaotic, the entire store was filled with all these eager well-scrubbed white folks looking like they would have fit in perfectly at any John Birch Society function. Less Fundy, more Reality TV Show junkies.

As the part-Jew mostly Cajun I was about the darkest one there, which always gives me the creeps.

But way my daughter was treated as soon as we joined the long line snaking through the store was the biggest surprise of the night.

Laura and her boyfriend before the hair dye

First I must explain my daughter’s latest look. She’s dyed her chin length hair two differing shades of bright red. She’s a pretty girl, had an appropriate amount of makeup on, wore a bright red wool trenchcoat and ombre circle scarf over jeans and layered shirts. She was dressed like just about every girl on the campus of George Mason, it was only the hair that was a bit outre. But she spent the night being treated like the spawn of Satan by just about every ‘official’ type person we encountered from moment one.

As we lined up one of the store employees handed out cards we were supposed to fill out with ‘encouragements’ for the Duggars. The worker handed one out of each of the six people before us, handed me one, and then handed them out to all the people behind us. He skipped Laura! Plus I saw the look he gave her, sort of a get behind me Satan glare.

But it was when she went out to seek a restroom and returned where it got very weird. The lady representing the Chick Fil A in the Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Virginia, owned by Jeff Burke, took one look at Laura trying to enter the store right behind her and purposely shut the door in Laura’s face. Later she was distributing Chick Fil A freebie coupons and did the same thing the FCB flunkie did, give things to those immediately in front of us and immediately behind and everywhere else, but deliberately skip Laura.

This behavior continued the rest of the night, people looking at Laura as if she were some dyed haired Jezebel. Echos of “Gone With The Wind’ Mammy saying, “Do you know a dyed haired woman?”

Laura handled it with grace and peace, but we spent the hour and half in line giggling and whispering with Laura reading aloud to me parts of the book that were ridiculous and braying with laughter. She was tickled by the antiquated advice on relationships in the book. Her comment upon seeing the Duggars in the flesh was that they seemed more normal and less freaky than on the television.

Plus Laura wasn’t the only one getting the bums rush. Several local street people wandered in and were encouraged to wander right back out and away. My heart broke for them, seemingly homeless older African-American men who came in just to see what all the fuss was about and treated with something less than Christian love and charity.

There was a large amount of Duck Dynasty merchandise in the store. So people were flipping out publicly months ago when Cracker Barrel and Wal Mart kept selling Duck Dynasty merchandise when Phil Robertson made his ignorant remarks, yet no one once mentioned that Family Christian Bookstore also carries a full line of Duck Dynasty merchandise. When did hate become a Christian family value?

There was a kerfuffle and moaning in the crowd when it was announced that the Duggar girls would not sign any books purchased anywhere else. You had to buy a copy of the book there right then, with it’s special imprint, before you could have it signed. People were upset because many of them had already purchased a cheaper copy of the book on Amazon and Family Christian Bookstore was not going to allow them to have it signed.

Then the Duggars arrived, actually it was the rest of the family, not the four eldest girls or Josh Duggar. The film crew arrived, taking the store from crowded to bursting at the seams. Between the lights, the crowd and everything else it started getting red hot in there. The crowd was woohooing and cheering as Michelle climbed up on a chair and started speaking.

She welcomed everyone and spoke for a few minutes, but I cannot tell you what she said because I was trying to angle for a decent photo with my crappy cell phone camera. She could have been shouting out cult instructions or Satanic recipes and I wouldn’t have known as I’d tuned out her voice to jockey for camera position. Michelle was followed by Jim Bob announcing that the girls were with Josh doing an interview for American Family Radio and would be arriving soon. This was well after the announced time that the event would start.

The remaining Duggar offspring flipped into automatic performance mode, like some cut-rate version of the Sound of Music family and sang several songs. For me this was the absolutely creepiest part of the night. I got chills, not in a good way, from the singing and presented perfection. I can’t explain why I found it creepy, but it was.

Then the girls arrived, darting into the door rapidly, parting the crowd as they rushed to the tables set up for the signing. They passed so closely in front of Laura and I that we could have reached out and cast blessings or cursings right on their heads. And so finally the line began to move.

Jill, Jana and me

Once we got to the head of the line Laura took a shot of me with Jill, Jana and Jinger. I made small talk with Jill and Jana about how they’d have mighty writers cramp before the evening was over. All four of the girls were beautiful, except I was surprised to see how much makeup each wore. Jessa had her fiance Ben Seewald with her and I have to say I simply wasn’t impressed. He came off like a very shy teenaged boy, doing what they told him, eyes down, concentrating on signing books. Of course, I could be mistaken about Ben, he hadn’t been raised in this public circus like the rest.

So badly wanted to ask Jinger if she’s ever read the website and board dedicated to rescuing her but decided not to say anything even slightly off to the kids. They cannot help who they are or how they were raised. That falls to the parents.

The line was moving very slowly so you did have a chance to talk a bit as you waited for the family ahead of you to quit posing for photos. I spoke with Joseph, asking him how he liked coming out to the DC area to visit his big brother Josh. He waxed enthusiastic about visiting all the different places and events in the area. Sweet kid.

My Laura hung back, said little to nothing to the Duggar kids and that was fine.

Josh and Anna

The next time the line moved forward a bit I ended up in front of Anna, Josh’s wife and she started talking to me. In the course of our interaction I have to say that she seems like the most normal of the entire family. I was charmed by her niceness. We talk a little of how different this area is to live in that just about anywhere. She’s kind and gracious.

Looks like the move away from the family was a positive one for Anna, she seemed much more self-assured than she has in the television show.

Josh slipped in and sat down next to his wife, flustered and rushed. His hair is in retreat and I got the impression of a man with more demands on his time than he actually has time. He looks older than his years.

Laura and I oohed and ahhed over the absolute over the top cuteness of the youngest girls so seriously signing the books and Laura remarked that Anna was going to end up wearing a lot of permanent marker and Jim Bob laughed, saying that he might have to give the younger ones washable markers instead of Sharpies.

And then, the end of the line, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. I posed for a photo between the two and I told Jim Bob I was there representing No Longer Quivering of Patheos Faith platform. Told him that the kids were beautiful, because they absolutely are.

My impression of le Pere et Mere Duggar is that Michelle wears the pants. I have no evidence of that, it was just things I observed in body language and interactions. Jim Bob seemed pleasant enough, except that from tales I’ve heard from pals in Arkansas and some of his behavior last night I think he has an unhealthy dash of wanting to be recognized. He’s enjoying his fame.

There is quite a lot I could say about Michelle, but I’m going to save that for another post. Let’s just say I’ve formed a differing opinion of what drives Michelle than I’d considered before and I need to think more on the subject. I believe she is the lynch pin that controls everything else and it goes back to whatever emotions led her into bulima long ago.

The children all seemed happy, healthy and well cared for, both Laura and I thought so. But much of the night just seemed to reinforce that the main body of folks there are so very far removed from the words and actions of Jesus. Yes, yes, I know, I’m judging too.

Comments open below

Read everything by Suzanne!

Suzanne is an empty nester lives near Washington DC with her husband, cats and various rescue birds. She works at a residential treatment center for children and is also the administrator of NLQ. Was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 7 years ago. Her blogs are True Love Doesn’t Rape and Seeking The Light

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Lana

    I know a lot of other patriarchs fall from grace, so we never know. My impression from the TV show (and the few encounters my family has had with them IRL) is that the Duggars are friendly and legit (not just putting on an act), but they are sadly trapped in harmful ideology. I would like to tell the girls that someone wants to free them. I don’t know if I would tell them about free Jinger, though; some of the threads are really negative. But I would like to tell them about homeschoolersanonymous, and tell them they are not alone.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Lana, I wanted to slip them a card with the addy of Homeschoolers Anonymous, NLQ and a couple other sites that would be willing to help them think, but… it was announced we could give them nothing as it would be confiscated immediately.

    I have nothing but compassion for those kids. The parents, not quite as much compassion.

  • Allison the Great

    I’m sorry they treated your daughter the way they did. That is beyond rude and I admire the way you handled it. It boggles the mind that some so-called Christians can be so un-Christlike when they come upon someone who is different. I don’t consider these people to be Christians at all.

  • Independent Thinker

    This is a little off the subject but someone from the show Chelsea Lately on the E Network clearly reads this blog. The show has been covering Kevin Swanson’s rants about Frozen and the Girl Scouts. Whenever a post goes up about Swanson about three to four days later it ends up being part of the round table discussion on the show if it makes for an interesting discussion. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the Duggar camp has stumbled across this website.

    Sorry, about how your daughter was treated. It’s unfortunate hair color trumps character in some peoples eyes.

  • Joyce

    I don’t consider these people to be Christians at all.

    I think in my old Sunday school days we called them Pharisees. I used to look around and see a lot of Pharisees.

  • Guest

    “I have nothing but compassion for those kids. The parents, not quite as much compassion.”

    That’s the way I feel about that family.

  • Saraquill

    The people handing out coupons for fast food could have at the very least given some to the street people wandering in. It still would be encouraging support of a hateful company, but at least somewhat pointing somewhat in the direction of decency.

  • Saraquill

    The idea of putting all those little ones to work in a noisy crowded chaotic area, doing a task that’s likely to cause pain, makes me uneasy. Along with the lack of non Caucasians and treating someone with dyed hair as a puppy kicker.

  • Vaughn Ohlman

    Ah, the Disqus gods are going to let me post today? Or right now anyway. ( I don’t think I have ever seen Disqus load without the comment ‘Disqus seems to be taking longer than usual’. I’m not sure Disqus is really clear on what those words mean.)

    On the issue of makeup, to which I am generally opposed, I can’t help but wonder if it might not have had something to do with the television cameras. I remember in my brief acting ‘career’ being dramatically offended by the idea that I was required to wear stuffy, smelly, gross, horrible looking makeup ‘for the lights’.

    Just wondering.

  • Carry

    Oh, they’re Pharisees alright. And they treated Laura like a Samaritan.

  • Nea

    we could give them nothing as it would be confiscated immediately.

    Wow. I’ve been to a lot of signings and I’ve never heard of that before; most people take the opportunity to give little gifts to the people they admire. Creepy and controlling much?

  • Controlling, methinks. I guess “subversive” books or cards with web links appeared in their hands at previous signings. In most other signings, the author is presumed to be an adult – capable of handling the messages (s)he receives.

  • Mel

    The “immediate confiscation” policy shows the level of insanity. I can understand not wanting strangers to give children items unsupervised, but the Duggar “girls” are legal adults. Plus, why would you subject the littler ones to the boredom of a book signing?

    As always, follow the money….

  • Nichelle Wrenn

    Perhaps this is just the ramblings of an outsider (I’m the sort of atheist your sunday school teacher warned you about) fascinated with the culture of Christianity here in the US. From what I have noticed both in person and online that the more liberal the Christian the more welcoming they are. Unless of course they think they can convert you ;). Truly, sadly hypocrisy is endemic in conservative Christianity.

  • Nea

    Nichelle, you’d be surprised at the number of atheists who read NLQ and Love, Joy, Feminism.

  • Guest

    That makes sense, Von. You really do need makeup so your face actually has features and doesn’t look like a ghost. My mother sang professionally and had to use stage makeup which she says made her look like a clown offstage.
    I was asked to use makeup when I worked as a waitress one summer and a cashier the next summer. I never got why we women had to use makeup and the men didn’t have to paint on a second face every day for work. It’s good to know that the acting world is more egalitarian! 🙂

  • Allison the Great

    I’m an atheist and I’ve noticed that too. The more conservative they are, the more rude and hostile they are.

    I’ve had odd colored hair, I was never mistreated but I have had friends of mine who were treated like crap who were better people than some of these “Christians” could ever hope to be. Mistreating someone because of hair color is just shallow and stupid.

  • Deborah Bee

    It’s incredible how so many of these reality TV people seem to be Rightwing zealots. Who’d have thought, that Honey Boo Boo and family, are the liberal-minded ones out of the bunch!

  • attackfish

    Please be aware, modern Rabbinical Judaism is descended from the Pharisee movement, and many of us modern Jews are very proud of the fact. The Pharisee sages of history were incredibly varied, and quite different from the ones portrayed in the bible. The Pharisee movement represented a tremendous flowering of Jewish ethical thought. Hearing it held up as an appropriate term by liberal Christians for hypocritical or rule obsessed Christians, makes me feel a little queasy, since I’m a Pharisee and proud of it.

  • attackfish

    And Love, Joy, Feminism has a fairly substantial Jewish readership and a fair number of Jewish commentors. I have no idea how this happened, but I will say it’s one of the most Jewish friendly sites not run by Jewish people I’ve come across. I’ve also run across a few pagans on NLQ and LJF. Lots of non-Christians of all stripes around here.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Next time I’ll use the word hypocrites or legalists. I found out about ten years ago that I was part Jewish and want to do nothing that dishonors that part of my heritage.

  • Joyce

    Sorry, Attackfish – I had no knowledge of that, so thank you for enlightening me. I certainly meant no disrespect to you or your heritage. I was taught that word back in my Sunday school days to mean a religious hypocrite. Now I know! I’m very picky about language, so I’m glad you spoke up so I can get it right.

  • attackfish

    Thank you, the effort is much appreciated. You learn something new every day, right?

  • attackfish

    Thank you. There’s a Jewish saying about the Jewish equivalent to that kind of Christian, “They act like their grandparents were there when Moses came down off the mountain.”

  • Lana

    Right, I meant tell the grown children about HA, NLQ, etc, not the parents; the parents have chosen their path, not to mention they have free access to the internet that the children do not have. But I understand that a book signing is not the place to bring it up. It would take someone on the inside of their world to speak to them, maybe if one of the children’s friends finds HA or something. We can hope.

  • Carry

    I appolgize too if I had offended you. I too had no idea of that, though I am curious about how Jews and Samaritans relate to each other nowadays. I know they’re very few in number, but I’m just curious.

  • attackfish

    I really am not the right person to ask. I am an American Jew, and until I started studying the Middle East, I didn’t even know there were any Samaritans left. I do know there are less than a thousand Samaritans, all of whom, I believe, live in Israel. I do know that there are tensions between the Samaritans and the Israeli government, and that the government swings between treating them like they do the Jewish citizens, and treating them like they do the Palestinians. I’m going to guess that Samaritans hold a similar position Karaite Jews, which is to say the mainstream Rabbinical Jewish community doesn’t quite know that to do with them. But as I said, I’m not the right person to ask.

  • Catherine

    That would be my assumption–stage makeup is horribly heavy and cake-y and looks far more clown-like than ordinary, every day makeup which (when done right, I think makeup should be subtle) shouldn’t be obvious at all.

  • Nichelle Wrenn

    That’s good to hear. I have noticed there is an eclectic mix of people who seem too personally respectful but still able to get down to the meat of an issue.

  • Lauren Borrero

    Well I happen to be a conservative and generally I am not hostile towards a lot of people unless provoked. I also thought that mistreating someone for their hair color was stupid too. It’s hard to believe grown adults were doing that.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Everyone is suggesting stage makeup and I do know what that looks like. This was more lots of smokey eye, eyeliner and mascara. Just very artificial looking. Not a daytime look. It was only the oldest four girls sporting it, not the rest. Perhaps they did it for the cameras at the other events in DC they attended that day.

  • tulips

    It’s pretty typical of the Quiverfull teens in our area. I suspect they lack experience and distinction for anything more sophisticated than “Makeup or No Makeup”. If makeup is happening…it’s on…happening in a big way. 🙂

  • tulips

    Perhaps not though…isn’t Michelle Duggar rather famous for having to have been told that her dark red lipstick was perhaps not the most flattering option…and isn’t JB Duggar sort of famous for his prolific use of hairspray?

  • tulips

    Cultural status identifiers. The odd colored hair ID’d her as an outsider. What else is new? She’s just a home perm away from Chick Fil A coupons (fingers crossed!) 😉

  • tulips

    Heh, amazing how much I seem to know about people whose show I don’t even watch. Ah, Patheos…

    ETA: I think your main point stands, the clothes are for sure different. Not a Peter Pan collared prairie dress in sight 🙂

  • KH

    I’m sorry your daughter was treated so poorly. She’s a better person then them for being graceful about it….and I have to say…as a naturally born redhead..who put up with teasing and tons of comments “about my pretty (ie different) red hair” I can somewhat relate…some people just can’t see pass the book cover..if you get my drift….