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Tanya Lee Stone: 2017 National Book Festival

Tanya Lee Stone: 2017 National Book Festival


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington, DC.>>Abby McGanney Nolan: Can you
please help me welcome all the way from Vermont Tanya Lee Stone. [ Applause ]>>Tanya Lee Stone: Good
afternoon, I am thrilled to be here and doubly thrilled to have
those two amazing introductions. As you’ve now heard twice,
there was a film that came out in 2013 called The Girl Rising
and I went to that film just as a regular moviegoer in my
downtown theater in Burlington, Vermont with my teenagers
and some of their friends. And it’s a remarkable film and I’m
going to give you a small taste of what that film is now and
when that couple of minutes is over I will tell you the
somewhat backward story of how a film became a book. So, if we could get the trailer
up now that would be wonderful.>>Tonight one of the
bravest girls in the world.>>Malala Yousafzai became renowned for demanding girls be given
the right to education.>>Shot in the head
on her school bus.>>She was a student
who wanted to learn, but now she’s fighting to live. [ Music ]>>I was 11 years old when my father
arranged for me to be married. [ Music ] [ Foreign Language ] [ Music ] I heard [inaudible]
about the thousands of girls sold to men
in those places. I can’t really talk about
everything that happened to me here, but I will never forget.>>We have come to this house,
the house of her master, to say you must set her free. [ Music ]>>There is no miracle here,
just a girl with dreams. [ Music ] [ Foreign Language ] [ Music ]>>I will read, I will
study, I will learn, if you try to stop me
I will just try harder. If they stop me there will be other
girls who rise up and take my place. I am change. [ Music ] I am my own master now. [ Music ] I feel as though I have power. [ Music ] Now there’s nothing to stop
me, I feel I can do anything. [ Music ]>>Tanya Lee Stone: Powerful yeah? [ Applause ] So, like I said, in 2013, I
went to see this film and it was about as perfect as a
film could be really. It’s mostly a documentary about why
there are 62 million girls globally not being educated. And as I said, I was
with a group of teenagers and we had an amazing conversation
that night after the film and they were very impacted
by the powerful stories and the girls themselves and could
speak after the film a little bit about what these major obstacles
to education are, which was great. Because the whole time I was sitting in the movie my book
brain was going nuts. I was thinking okay great,
this is about nine girls, how many more girls must these
filmmakers have met in order to have been able to
narrow it down to nine girls and how many more are there and in
what other countries did they visit and what kind of wealth of archival
information must these filmmakers have had. So, we had this great conversation
and a couple of weeks later I talked to those same teenagers again and they still really remembered
the girls and their stories and the emotional takeaway. But when I asked them what the
obstacles to education were really like they could name them, what
are they, why do they occur, where do they happen that information hadn’t
really been retained. And so, that really confirmed what
I had been thinking that night in the theater that here was
this incredibly powerful tool, but wouldn’t it be amazing to be
able to sit down and have a book that you could open and go
slowly through and kind of pour over that maybe had some
infographics and maps and statistics and really unpacked
all of these obstacles. And I just thought I really,
really want to do this. And so, I did something
a little bit nervy, but people know me won’t think
that’s too much out of my nature and I sent an e-mail
to [email protected] and I very brazenly just
said like this is who I am and this is what I do for a
living and this is what I think. I really think that this movie
should be turned into a book, does anybody there
want to talk to me. And in remarkably short
order I was put on the phone with Kayce Freed Jennings, who
is in the audience tonight. And we had this incredible
first conversation where we were finishing
each other’s sentences and our visions were the
same for what this could be. And lo and behold she had wanted
to make a book out of this film, but they weren’t bookmakers
they were filmmakers right. And so, it was kind
of a perfect marriage that just unfolded and here we are. So, how the collaboration worked
is that I did not use the script of the film because it’s as
I said not a true documentary for many reasons, some of which
are that some of the girls needed to be identity protected and some of
the scenes needed to be reimagined and recreated for the film right. So, instead what I decided to do
was completely start from scratch and use all of their raw video
footage of all of the interviews that they did with every girl
they met and their photographic, there still photographic archive
and they very generously sent me all of this on like a trilobite
hard drive and I started pouring through it with headphones on my
head and just you know listening to the girls speak in
their native languages and the translators translating them
and really starting to get to know who some of these girls were. So, we’ll talk more about
that as I go through this and you can ask questions about
it if you have them as we go. But what I decided to do was to
tackle the book in three parts, the stakes, the stories
and the solutions. And the stories still remain
the bulk of the project, it’s about two thirds of the book. The stories are the
girls’ stories themselves. In the stakes in part one I
really just wanted to kind of slow down like I said and be able to really unpack what are these
obstacles to education, poverty and gender discrimination
are the big umbrellas, but underneath those umbrellas are
modern-day slavery, child marriage and no access or limited
access to education. And really kind of slow down and
talk about why those things happen, what factors affect those things
from happening, and you know kind of ease people into it with
a historical larger context that they could then have while they
move on to reading about the girls. And this is just one example
of an infographic that’s in the book, there are several. So part two, part two is the
heart of the book as it is heart of the film, it’s the stories. And one thing that was
really important to me to do in the book was to add as many girls
as possible since the film focused on the nine girls from nine
different countries I wanted to get in as many girls as I could, even
if it might be in just a photograph. And in fact, this particular chapter
opener of this beautiful girl, this is Roxanna’s older
sister, Rose. So, Roxanne is covered in the film
and also she’s featured in the book and I didn’t have enough
information to write about Rose, so instead we get to see her in
the book and that was one way that I added even more
girls than the ones that I was able to write about. So many girls from so many different
places and one way to fit more of them in was then in the stories
instead of going country by country to go by obstacle to education. So, within the bulk of the book
that’s called the stories there are smaller chapters on modern-day
slavery, on child marriage and on limited or no
access to education. And that is Suma who’s
also our cover girl. In all of these chapters I start
out again sort of slowing down and talking about what
is modern-day slavery, what is considered slavery,
where is it happening. And one of the things
that I was most struck by during this process
was in the slavery section that slavery is illegal
everywhere and happens everywhere. And that is just sort of a shocking
thing to kind of let sink in and to understand what some people
are going through in the world. And slavery can happen
for a number of reasons, it can happen for generational
and cultural reasons in places in the world that it’s been
happening for a long time like in Nepal with the
Kumari girls or it can happen in refugee situations or
it can happen in areas where there are natural
disasters like in Haiti after the big earthquake. This is when [inaudible] and there’s
forced labor that’s still existing in all over the world today
which is kind of heartbreaking. But the thing that we
keep coming back to in all of these stories is
education being the key, that education is the single
most powerful tool that we have, investing in a girl’s education to literally changing the
way the world functions. And look at those beautiful faces. One of the things that also struck
me as I was going through this that I actually stopped
and kind of reconciled and we had some conversations
about is if you flip through this book you will
notice how beautiful it is and how beautiful the girls are and
you see these smiling, joyful faces and you sort of think, but wait a
minute this is really dark tough material about very terrible
things that are happening in the world why are
all these girls smiling. Well, these girls are all
smiling because we met them after they had been rescued from
the situations that they were in and they were in school. And it was really poignant to sort
of stop and remember that and kind of wrestle with that and think it’s
okay that this book is as beautiful as it is because these are
the faces of resilient people. The child marriage section also goes
through what that sordid details are of why child marriage
happens, where it happens. This map, I’m very proud of this
map, it took a very long time to make and the thing I want
to point out the most to you is that the gray areas are not areas in which child marriage does
not happen they are areas in which we don’t have enough
data to show you where it happens and you’ll notice that the
United States is included in that gray area. So, child marriage does happen
everywhere and it’s something that we need to pay
attention to globally. All over the world
this is happening. And I included this picture here
to sort of make a point about one of the things that we were
able to do in the book. Some of the girls in the
film were portrayed by actors and this is an example of that. And Yasmine, which is not her real
name, was very adamant about wanting to be included in the book, which
is another thing that we kind of all talked about and wrestled
with and came to a conclusion about. And the reason that we agreed
to let her be in the book and show her picture is A,
it was her choice and B, she’s certain that by only
showing her eyes she would not be recognized. And it was just one more opportunity
for us to honor the bravery and the resilience of all of
these girls that are dealing with these issues in their lives. Another thing that was kind of
incredible for me to take away is that we tend, we in the developed
more privileged world we tend to look at some of these
issues around the world and get a little maybe
judgmental thinking that we know what’s
best for other people. And so, there’s a big difference
between becoming educated and becoming aware of what’s
happening in the world and helping and being activists versus
thinking that we know what’s best for any particular group of
people or person frankly. So, one of the things
that I remembered very, very often while I was researching and writing this book was what
a privilege it was to be able to be doing this work and to
remember that I was doing it from the comfort of my heated home
with clean water and plenty of food, and school that is free for
my kids in this country. Because yes, poverty and gender
discrimination happens everywhere and America isn’t included in
this book and neither is Europe. But the main difference is
because we have school that is free and in all of these other
countries grappling with all of these other problems
school is not free and so that becomes a huge barrier. If a family is struggling with
being able to put food on the table or having enough clothing or having
enough shelter adding the fees that a school is going to require
makes it that much more difficult. And when families are able
to handle some school fees and they have multiple children
it’s generally speaking the boys that are going to get that
chance to go to school because the girls are going
to be kept home help care for the siblings, carry water
gather firewood, etcetera. And so, those are some of
the reasons that explain kind of why these things are happening and why they’ve been
happening for so long. But what I started to learn and
see is that our sort of reaction to let’s say a mother who is going to marry her child off early
our reaction is oh my gosh, how terrible is that, what a
terrible mother that must be. Well no, that’s our
opinion being imposed on another culture that’s
doing things the best they can under the circumstances
that they’re dealing with. And so, Azmera’s story in the
film is a perfect example of that. Azmera’s mother is the farthest
thing from a terrible mother that you could find, she’s a
loving mother, she’s a mother who is certain that marrying
her daughter is the best way to have her have a successful and
a positive and a healthy life. And what’s starting to happen that’s so amazing is this next
generation is starting to stand up and say there is a different
way, there is a better way. And so, the stories like Azmera’s
are very hopeful and inspiring because there we have Azmera’s
brother kind of running in from the field to talk to her
mother who’s about to hand her off in marriage and say no,
there’s another way, which then in turn gives
Azmera the courage to stand up and say I don’t want to be
married let’s find a better way. In general, we need these
father figures around the world to help stand up for
girls and women. Their energy is needed, their
input is needed and we see more of those stories and I was
sort of getting that theme as I was watching the film
that that might be the case and that there might
be more information about that and in fact that’s true. And so, one of the
things I wanted to include in the book was a feature
called father figures to sort of highlight some of the
men who are doing this and get that message across. Access to education in general
is also a very huge problem if you just even think
about it a little bit. Even if there’s a school nearby
there might not be enough teachers or there may not be enough desks
or books or facility in general, there also might not
be transportation, a means of getting there. If your school is 10 miles
away from your village and your family doesn’t have a
car or even a horse or a donkey, then you’re a girl you have to walk
that 10 miles to and from school and it’s not particularly
safe in some cases. So, these are all things that
kind of increase the problems that are happening in the countries. But again and again and
again, we come across girls who are being helped and what
Girl Rising did was they partnered with nongovernmental
organizations, NGOs on the ground who are already working
with successful groups to get successful plans that
were getting girls into school. So, over and over again we
see girls, look at this girl, look at her face she is
just determined to walk through where she has to walk
through to get to school. Now Sohka is an excellent
example of a girl who was literally five years
ago living and working in a dump in Cambodia and now she is just
starting her sophomore year in college in Chicago. Think about that, I mean that’s
astonishing to me and we have to remember that these
stories are stories of girls, they are not stories of
particularly extraordinary girls, some of them are, some
of them aren’t. But what we can’t do is look at this and think oh well these are just
extraordinary girls who went from a dump to a college
in five years, no. And that’s sort of the major
point that we want to remember. These are just regular girls
living out their lives just like girls here, girls thinking
about clothes, girls thinking about boys, girls thinking
about family and friends. And if you can educate
them and get them into school their entire
lives change. They’re not other girls in
other places they’re just girls who need an education. And there she is holding
the Girl Rising book, pretty happy to be included in it and we’re pretty happy
to be in touch with her. Sohka and I are Facebook friends, which is just mind-boggling
you know, I mean I can tweet about this later on in and
chat with her on Facebook and there she is just a little
brilliant girl now getting an education in Chicago. So, the third part of the
book is all about you, it’s all about activism, what
can we do to help effect change. And that can seem very
overwhelming, can’t it? I mean we’re talking about
gender, discrimination and poverty and slavery and child marriage,
and no access to education. So, what can you do? And the reason I wanted to take
the whole third part of the book and really talk about that is because you can do a lot,
you can do a whole lot. And the best way to kind of
get a handle on what you can do and how you can help is to think
about what are your passions just as a human being in the world. Do you love to bike, you could
put together a fundraiser biking and raise money for a group
like Pink Bike in Cambodia which buys bikes for girls
in Cambodia to bike to school and that’s just one tiny example? So, in the third part of the
book I talk about different ways that you can become activists and I also give you some
starting ideas not only in terms of linking it to your passions like
writing or art, but actual lists of organizations that are
doing this kind of good work. And the list of organizations
isn’t meant to sort of direct where you send your help it’s
just a way to get you started. And I say that in the back
of the book and we also have that information on the
girlrising.com website. And so, really finding out how
to help and finding out how to be an active person in
the world, an active citizen of the world is what I’m after
in this section and I hope that you find that inviting
and inspiring to do. That’s Azmera actually, look
at that face, that is the face of a girl ready for anything. And that’s what we hope for
every girl who has an education to dream big, to follow their
dreams and to have possibility. So, I would love to
answer questions now. Thank you. [ Applause ] Do you have a mic that’s
passed around? I can’t see with the light. [ Inaudible Comment ] There are two microphones to
come to, to ask questions. Do we have a shy room?>>I have a question,
obviously you point to a number of — over here hi.>>Tanya Lee Stone: Hi.>>You point to a number of
issues whether it’s sex slavery, lack of access to education,
etcetera, etcetera. You also point mentioned some of it is a cultural bias I just
want to ask you about this. Obviously, we’ve seen
in a lot of countries which have very strong male
dominated culture it’s almost like culturally it tends to deprive
girls and women of certain rights that we in the west accept. And sometimes even in trying
to do well it can lead to [inaudible] consequences where
for example in China when they used to do the one child policy there’s
becomes this disproportionate number of boys because of either.>>Tanya Lee Stone: Right.>>[Inaudible] or just
scattered on the roadways. Do you have any thoughts
about the general of that male-dominated
cultures and what influence that has and any comments on it?>>Tanya Lee Stone:
Well there’s no question that there are male-dominated
cultures in the world. There’s also no question that
there are males in those countries that don’t feel that way. And I think, you know, anyone
from one country isn’t going to change how an entire culture
in another country works. But there are a lot of
nongovernmental organizations in a lot of places where the
culture is dominated by males and that’s one way of women
getting help in those countries. And another way is what I was
talking about in terms of brothers, cousins, grandfathers, uncles. If you start looking for those
stories you will find a lot of them and you know I can’t
pretend that there’s any way to change how another culture works. But I think there is hope in some
of the ways that things are starting to be handled differently
now than they were before.>>Hello.>>Tanya Lee Stone: Hi.>>Because you spent quite a bit
of time on section one and two of your beautiful book could you
please enumerate a little bit more besides the pink bicycle idea how
we here because we’re all here and can be immediately activated
before we even read your book what else you have suggested in
section three of your book, just a few more ideas please.>>Tanya Lee Stone: Sure.>>In summary.>>Tanya Lee Stone: There are some
groups in Afghanistan that work with women writers, teen writers and adult writers they
have mentoring programs so that you can help women writers in that country be
heard, have their voice. Learn how to use computers. Oh gosh, there are so many. Room to Read has programs and
Plan International and UNICEF, there are so many programs
happening that I’m actually blanking on the details of some of them. But do you remember any offhand?>>I haven’t read your book yet.>>Tanya Lee Stone: No Kayce. [ Inaudible Comment ] Holding screenings of the film
itself yeah, it gets massive amounts of kids together to do that.>>I see all right, thank you.>>Hi, I was curious about your plan
going forward, are you going to stay in touch with the girls
and have a follow-up on how they’re doing in the future?>>Tanya Lee Stone: Yeah, one of the
great things about this organization and this global movement for
girls is that Girl Rising and through the help of their
sponsors is helping all of the girls who are featured and their siblings through secondary school
with funding. And we’re keeping track of
as many of them as we can. And the other thing that’s
in the third section other than activism are actually updates
on a lot of the girls who we know about and what they’re doing. So, we follow them as best we can. It’s really actually so much
fun to get updates on them and find out what they’re doing.>>Are there any girls from the
archives that you didn’t include?>>Tanya Lee Stone: Oh, yes. I mean there are a lot of
girls from the archives that I wasn’t able to include. I couldn’t literally
couldn’t fit everybody in, but what I did do was I tried
to fit in as many of them. And so, if there was then I included
a little bit about them if I could and if there wasn’t in some cases,
I included their photograph. But just the sheer volume of
the number of girls and limited by the number of pages
in a book not all of them could be in
there unfortunately. There are actually though more of
them on the Girl Rising website that aren’t in the book or
in the film, some of them are on the Girl Rising website. So, we actually have a
couple of different ways to present these girls to the world and have more information
out there about them.>>Okay thank you.>>I was just curious to know
if you have personally met or spent any time with the
girls who you profiled?>>Tanya Lee Stone:
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to spend any face-to-face
time with them. As I said, Sohka and I chat online. The timing of it if you just think about the timing of
any media projects. The film came out in 2013, which means that the Girl Rising
folks were meeting these girls in like 2011 and then I came along
2013, but it was really 2014, 2015, 2016 that we were working
on the book and it just wasn’t feasible just
you know from a travel point of view and where the girls were and how
old they had gotten in some cases.>>I understand.>>Tanya Lee Stone: Yeah,
that would’ve been amazing.>>Thank you.>>Hi, I was wondering if having
been involved with this kind of changed the way you think about
like western schools in a way because even just after hearing your
presentation it seems so callous to complain about math
homework or something when so many girls would jump
at a chance to have that.>>Tanya Lee Stone: Yeah,
no it’s totally true. It actually changed
me in so many ways, including not just math homework, but you know the school
bus ride right. Like our kids complain about
not wanting to take the bus because for whatever
reason, it’s noisy, it’s stressful, it
takes a long time. But then you think about these
girls in all of these places that have no way at all
to even get to school, let alone complain
about math homework. And one of the things that I
was really tickled by was a lot of the girls talking about what
their favorite parts of school were in the videos, in their interview
videos and one girl said recess, which was pretty adorable,
she was very young. But most of the girls liked science
and they liked math and they were so excited about all of these
things that we take for granted and they wanted to be doctors and
they want to be judges and they want to do all of these
incredible things you know because they don’t
take it for granted. And it would be lovely if we could
figure out a way to have some of that spill over since we
do take things for granted because we don’t have to think
about it because school is free and because school bus
transportation is free in most instances. It would be a great way if we
could find — if somebody like you, if some young person could find
a way to have that spill over so that our kids in school today have
a little taste of that and are sort of more grateful, I
mean it’s not really in the nature of the beast you now. I mean, I complained about
school too when I was a kid, but it is really eye-opening and it
is horizon broadening to just sort of immerse yourself in some of this
even for the smallest amount of time and be grateful and be happy for
what we are privileged to have.>>Thank you.>>Hi, so my question is
about you say girls rise when they get education, what
does that education look like? Here you see the emphasis on
STEM for girls getting ahead, but in other cultures we may
not understand does that look like giving them technical skills, does it look like a typical
secondary education you get in the United States like
what does it look like?>>Tanya Lee Stone: Your microphone
is cutting in and out a little bit, but I think you’re asking me what
does getting an education mean in some of these other countries.>>What does it look like?>>Tanya Lee Stone:
What does it look like.>>Is it STEM focused,
is it technical focused.>>Tanya Lee Stone: It can
be in some places it can be, but in a lot of places where
we’re talking about we’re talking about the basic fundamentals
of education that aren’t happening otherwise. So, literacy and math and basic
science and history and literature, you know the roots of an education. And in many cases, there can be
more than that and there are more than that, more programs than that. But what we’re really hoping to do
is expand the general foundation of education for everyone,
girls and boys.>>Hi, did the documentary and
book force any of the governments to change their attitudes
in these countries?>>Tanya Lee Stone: Are you asking
if the documentary was responsible for any governmental changes?>>Yeah, like policy change
or anything like that.>>Tanya Lee Stone: Kayce,
do you know if that’s true? [ Inaudible Comment ]>>All right, thank you both.>>Hello, so the other
individual who was talking about how she complains about math
and how it seems trivial to complain about math homework now kind of
made me think about my own career. I teach EASL students, so
students who speak English as a second language and so I
teach a lot of immigrant students and the reason why I love
this movie so much is because my students
feel the same way about education as
these young women do. So, I was wondering if you
ever thought about doing a book about interviewing immigrant
students here and kind of thinking about what their thoughts are on
education and how excited they are to be here because that’s the
thing I see in my classroom like they’re really
excited to be here?>>Tanya Lee Stone:
That’s a really great point and a really interesting question
and I actually would love to talk to you more about that,
so if you want to find me later we
can we talk about that. Well I have been given
the wrap it up sign. And so, I wanted to just
thank you all for coming and your great questions and
thank the National Book Festival for having me and I’m so glad that you have this
introduction to Girl Rising. If you haven’t seen the film please
do, it’s an amazingly powerful tool. The book is hopefully
inspiring and useful and helpful and there’s also free
curriculum guides for any teachers and librarians out there. Thank you so much. [ Applause ]>>This has been a
presentation of the Library of Congress, visit us at LOC.gov.

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