Profiles in Sustainability: Tanya Lee Stone by Kiera Hufford ’18

CCM faculty and renowned author Tanya Lee Stone is working on a non-fiction book

TanyaStone_presscentered on Girl Rising, a film that seeks to answer the question: why are 62 million girls around the world not being educated?

The Girl Rising film profiles nine girls in nine countries who were all given the opportunity to conquer their own obstacles to education and are now attending school.

“I watched the film when it came out [in 2013] with a group of young adults,” said Stone. “While it made a huge impression on them emotionally, I found that when I tried to discuss the obstacles to education with them a few weeks later, they hadn’t retained that much of the content. I realized that as powerful and perfect as the film is, the format of a book would give someone more of an opportunity to really unpack those education obstacles. I wanted to try and make that happen because I was so moved by the importance and impact of the film.”

Stone’s book expands on the scope and content of the film, fleshing out the major obstacles girls face globally, including poverty, gender discrimination, child marriage, forced labor, and a lack of access to education. The sister-book, suitably named Girl Rising, features the stories of 35 girls and will be geared towards both young adults and adults.

“I learned about some of the other girls from raw video interview footage that Girl Rising took of girls who didn’t end up in the film. The other girls came from additional research I did using news sources, books, articles, and such,” said Stone.

Stone’s focus on Girl Rising isn’t unusual for her books. “I am drawn to stories that are missing from our histories or little-told, which are generally about women and people of color,” she said.

Many of Stone’s books focus on strong women throughout history who have done amazing things. Her non-fiction picture book Elizabeth Leads the Way tells the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and how she stood up for women’s right to vote in America.

“I have also written many other books with these themes, including Almost Astronauts (for young adults), which is the true story of thirteen women who were tested to see if women were equally qualified to be astronauts as men, and how they were stopped from achieving that goal by NASA and Lyndon B. Johnson,” she said.

Stone has also penned biographies of Ella Fitzgerald, Amelia Earhart, Jane Addams, Elizabeth Blackwell and others. Her book Laura Ingalls Wilder pays tribute to the Little House on the Prairie author. It’s filled with facts and photos depicting Wilder’s pioneer childhood, which served as inspiration for her books. Amelia Earhart, on the other hand, shows the life of the record-breaking female pilot. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and her disappearance is one of America’s greatest mysteries.

Courage Has No Color is the true story of the Triple Nickels, the first black paratroopers in WII, and winner of the NAACP Image Award Winner for Outstanding Literature for Youth/Teens. Stone tells the story of how these men paved the way for other black soldiers and how they integrated the army prior to Truman’s Executive Order. Stone did extensive research for this book and was able to piece together a story in full historical context over a span of ten years. Publisher’s Weekly called it “a captivating look at a small but significant piece of military and civil rights history.”

“In the world of fiction, my young adult novel in free verse, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, deals with the tricky navigating of first love and sex, and how the choices a girl makes for herself in relationships shapes the path she takes,” said Stone. “That book, I am proud to say, was #6 on the national Top Ten Banned Books list last year!”

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl doesn’t focus on great things that have been done by women or women of our history, but it contributes to the concept of women’s strength and self-awareness.

Stone’s literature, both fiction and non-fiction, describes and benefits women’s rights/empowerment and paints a more accurate image of race. She’s used her books to tell stories in history that deserve coverage, ones that people can read and remind themselves of the contributions both women and people of color have made to society.

Learn more about Tanya Lee Stone on her web site.