Skip to main content
Select Source:

Bolden, Tonya 1959- (Tonya Wilyce Bolden)

Bolden, Tonya 1959- (Tonya Wilyce Bolden)

Personal

Born March 1, 1959, in New York, NY; daughter of Willie J. (a garment center shipping manager) and Georgia C. (a homemaker) Bolden; married (divorced 1990).

Education: Princeton University, B.A. (Slavic languages and literatures/concentration Russian; magna cum laude), 1981; Columbia University, M.A. (Slavic languages and literatures/concentration Russian), 1985, Harriman Institute, certificate for the advanced study of the Soviet Union, 1985. Politics: "Independent." Religion: Christian.

Addresses

Home—Bronx, NY. Agent—Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, 151 W. 19th St., 3rd Fl., New York, NY 10011. E-mail—tonbolden@aol.com.

Career

Charles Alan, Inc., New York, NY, salesperson et al., 1981-83; Raoulfilm, Inc., New York, NY, administrative assistant/office coordinator, 1985-87; research and editorial assistant to food and wine critic William E. Rice, 1987-88; Malcolm-King College, New York, NY, English instructor, 1988-89; College of New Rochelle School of New Resources, New York, NY, English instructor, 1989-90, 1996-2000. Editor, HARKline (quarterly newsletter of Harkhomes, a shelter for the homeless in Harlem), 1989-90; editor, Quarterly Black Review of Books, 1994-95. Editorial consultant to MTA Arts for Transit Office, 1987-88, and Harlem River Press/Writers & Readers Publishing, Inc., 1987-90; editor and project consultant, Maafa Cultural Heritage Enrichment Kit, Brooklyn, NY, 2001. Member of Westside Repertory Theatre, 1977-82.

Member

PEN American Center.

Awards, Honors

Book for the Teen Age designation, New York Public Library, 1993, for Mama, I Want to Sing, 1999, for And Not Afraid to Dare, 2000, for Strong Men Keep Coming, 2006, for both Maritcha and Cause, 2008, for Take-off; Best Books for Young Adults designation, American Library Association, 1999, for Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know; YALSA Best Book for Young Adults designation, 2005, for Wake up Our Souls; Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book designation, and James Madison Book Award, both 2006, both for Maritcha; Orbis Pictus Award, 2008, for M.L.K.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS

(Coauthor) Vy Higginsen, Mama, I Want to Sing (young-adult novel), Scholastic (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor) Rites of Passage: Stories about Growing up by Black Writers from around the World, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1994.

Just Family, Cobblehill Books (New York, NY), 1996.

Through Loona's Door: A Tammy and Owen Adventure with Carter G. Woodson, illustrated by Luther Knox, Corporation for Cultural Literacy (Oakland, CA), 1997.

And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1998.

(Editor) Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems, and Smart Talk by Thirty-three Extraordinary Women, Crown (New York, NY), 1998.

Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.

Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2001.

(Editor) Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know about Women's History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A., Crown (New York, NY), 2002.

(Adaptor) Gail Buckley, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm, Crown (New York, NY), 2003.

Portraits of African-American Heroes, illustrated by Ansel Pitcairn, Dutton (New York, NY), 2003.

Wake up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2004.

The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.

Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2005.

Cause: Reconstruction America, 1863-1877, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.

M.L.K.: Journey of a King, Abrams Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2007.

Take-off!: American All-Girl Bands during WWII, Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.

George Washington Carver, Abrams Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2008.

FOR ADULTS

The Family Heirloom Cookbook, Putnam (New York, NY), 1990.

Starting a Business from Your Home, Longmeadow Press (Stamford, CT), 1993.

Getting into the Mail-Order Business, Longmeadow Press (Stamford, CT), 1994.

Mail Order and Direct Response, Longmeadow Press (Stamford, CT), 1994.

The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, Adams Media (Holbrook, MA), 1996.

(Coauthor) Mother Love, Forgive or Forget: Never Underestimate the Power of Forgiveness, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.

Strong Men Keep Coming: The Book of African-American Men, Wiley (New York, NY), 1999.

(Coauthor) Eartha Kitt, Rejuvenate!: It's Never Too Late, Scribner (New York, NY), 2000.

(Coauthor) Chaka Khan, Chaka!: Through the Fire, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

(Coauthor) Mother Love, Half the Mother, Twice the Love: My Journey to Better Health with Diabetes, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.

(Coauthor) Diane Valentine, Weddings Valentine Style: Rich Inspiration for Every Woman's Dream Day, Atria Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Also contributor to books, including African-American History, Scholastic, 1990; Black Arts Annual, edited by Donald Bogle, Garland, 1990, 1992; Hands On!: Thirty-three More Things Every Girl Should Know, edited by Suzanne Harper, Random House, 2001; Go Girl!: The Black Woman's Book of Travel and Adventure, edited by Elaine Lee, Eighth Mountain Press, 1997; and The Harlem Reader, edited by Herb Boyd, Three Rivers Press, 2003. Contributor of book reviews and articles to Amsterdam News, Black Enterprise, Essence, Excel, Focus, New York Times Book Review, Small Press, and YSB. Author of study guides for Carter G. Woodson Foundation artists-in-the-schools program.

Sidelights

In her books for younger readers, Tonya Bolden draws from history to present modern readers with hopeful and positive life examples. While much of her work is nonfiction, Bolden ranges in genre from history to biography to self-help book, bringing her knowledge and fascination with African-American history and the development of Black American culture to bear in books that include And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, Wake up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black Artists, M.L.K.: Journey of a King, and Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century Girl. According to National Catholic Reporter contributor Arthur Jones, as a writer Bolden is "quirky" but "not boring." He characterized her as "a storyteller who editorializes along the way—as good storytellers can without offense."

Brave black women fill the pages of And Not Afraid to Dare. The subjects of this book include Ellen Craft, a light-skinned enslaved woman who traveled a thousand miles to freedom by posing as an ailing white man attended by an enslaved man who was really Craft's husband. Contemporary women such as writer Toni Morrison and athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee are also profiled. Bolden "writes easily and confidently about her subjects … and her compelling stories read like fiction," remarked Lauren Peterson in Booklist.

Turning to cultural history, Wake up Our Souls introduces readers to over thirty professional black artists, beginning with Joshua Johnson and ranging through sculptor Augusta Savage, painter William H. Johnson, ceramicist Winnin Owens-Hart, and photographer Gordon Parks. Published in association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the book features photographs of many works by these men and women, as well as profiles of their lives. She presents her history in "simple, graceful language," wrote Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg, and places each artist within their historical epoch. Bolden's inclusion of information on professional arts organizations such as Spiral, which were formed to support the works of such pioneers, "is particularly fascinating," Engberg added. In School Library Journal, Robin L. Gibson noted in particular the author's "notable" history of the development of the civil rights movement, going on to call Wake up Our Souls a "welcome addition to art history collections."

Inspirational stories are collected by Bolden in several books, including M.L.K., Portraits of African-American Heroes, and Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America. In Portraits of African-American Heroes she joins with artist Ansel Pitcairn to share twenty tales about Americans from past and present—Frederick Douglass, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Thurgood Marshall among them—who have overcome significant challenges and achieved a measure of greatness. Terry Glover had strong praise for Bolden's approach in her Booklist review, writing that the author provides readers with "keen insights into a subject's personality based on interviews and information drawn from personal memoirs." Noting Pitcairn's ability to "unerringly … capture … the souls of these remarkable people" in his sepia-toned art, a Kirkus Reviews critic praised Portraits of African-American Heroes "a fascinating and unique" volume.

M.L.K. focuses on perhaps the best-known American of color: Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The life of the civil rights leader is traced by Bolden and enhanced by numerous illustrations documenting his life and work to

bring about racial harmony. In School Library Journal John Peters noted that in her "eloquent, handsomely designed" volume, Bolden "looks past the public figure to bring the man, and his deeper vision … into focus," and "leave[s] readers with a strong, and perhaps inspiring, sense" of King's accomplishments. "Do libraries need another biography of King?," asked Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman. "Yes, if it's as good as this one."

Among the people readers meet in Tell All the Children Our Story is Maritcha Remond Lyons, a black educator who grew up in southern Manhattan during a time when slavery still existed in the southern United States. Bolden bases her account of Lyons' life in Maritcha on the memoir set down by the woman herself. Along with vivid memories of her parents and the cultured black community they inhabited, as well as of her own childhood friendships and her recollections of attending the country's first World's Fair, Maritcha also recalls the 1863 riots that forced her to flee her home as well as her battle for education, a battle she won when she became the first African American to graduate from her Rhode Island high school. Bolden's well-researched text features "both an inspirational portrait of an individual and a piercing history" of the black experience in the wake of the U.S. Civil War, according to Engberg. Carolyn Janssen had a similar assessment in School Library Journal, writing that Bolden "skillfully presents interesting facts and a personal view of an often-overlooked segment of history." Containing numerous maps, photographs, and other images that bring the young woman's story to life, Maritcha was named a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. It was also awarded the 2006 James Madison Book Award, an honor established by Lynne Cheney to acknowledge "excellence in bringing knowledge and understanding of American history to children ages five to fourteen."

Turning her focus to contemporary girls who hope to accomplish great things, Bolden's Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems, and Smart Talk by Thirty-three Extraordinary Women gathers contributions from among writers, businesswomen, athletes, artists, and more, all of whom focus on the trials encountered while moving from childhood to adulthood. Communicating with boys, being true to oneself, and dealing with issues such as self-esteem and popularity are all treated. In Booklist Shelle Rosenfeld praised Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, writing: "Astute, compassionate, sometimes witty, sometimes painfully honest, the pieces are highly readable, entertaining, and educational."

A related work, Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know about Women's History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A, contains what Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper described as "a cornucopia of information, some of which will surprise readers." Poems, journal entries, letters, essays, photographs, artwork, and a play make up the book's structure, with such items as First Lady Abigail Adams's letter to her husband regarding women's rights, nineteenth-century feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman's essay "The Yellow Wallpaper," and a modern rock critic's perspective on the girl groups of the 1960s among the many offerings. Bolden's work "demystifies" the term "feminist" according to Cooper, while in Horn Book Nell D. Beram noted that the fact that much of the book's content "tends toward the serviceable hardly mutes this resounding battle cry."

Bolden addresses younger children in several books that match her text with illustrations. Collaborating with artist R. Gregory Christie, she uses free verse to tell the story of one of the greatest boxers of all time in The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali, and presents a moving look at the unique role of churches in supporting a resilient spirit against oppression in Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church. Praising the author's "simple, clear, and lively text" in his Booklist review, John Green wrote that Bolden's biography of Ali follows the pugilist from his boyhood in Louisville when he was known as Cassius Clay through his Olympic victory, his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, and his activism. Together with illustrations in which Christie brings to life Ali's "flamboyant personality," Bolden creates an energetic and "engaging text" appropriate for younger children, in the opinion of School Library Journal writer Anne M. Holcomb. In a text that a KirkusReviews writer described as "clear and concise without being condescending," the author highlights one of Ali's most notable traits: "his fierce determination."

In addition to writing for children, Bolden has also written a number of books for adult readers, and has served as coauthor of autobiographical works by entertainer Eartha Kitt, singer Chaka Kahn and inspirational speaker and talk-show host Mother Love. In Strong Men Keep Coming: The Book of African-American Men she presents more than one hundred short biographies of admirable African Americans. Her subjects range from well-known people such as W.E.B. DuBois, Jesse Jackson, and Dred Scott to more obscure figures such as Dave Dinwiddie, a pioneer whose story stretches from Alabama to Oklahoma. Strong Men Keep Coming works both as "an informative read and a textbook," according to Jones, the critic concluding in National Catholic Reporter: "Bolden provided me with insights I didn't have, introduced me to people I didn't know, and the book ended all too soon."

Bolden once commented: "I've been a book lover ever since I was a child. However, I never thought seriously about becoming a writer as a child or young adult. But those who've long known me are not surprised that I've ended up with a writing life. It's the best of two glorious worlds: teaching and lifelong learning." Asked to give advice to teens making choices regarding their own future, Bolden told Buffalo News interviewer Jean Westmoore: "Hone writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills. When you look into your future and think about what and who you want to be when you are an adult, give thought to living not for yourself alone."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

American Visions, December, 1997, review of Through Loona's Door: A Tammy and Owen Adventure with Carter G. Woodson, p. 34.

Black Issues Book Review, January, 1999, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems, and Smart Talk by Thirty-three Extraordinary Women, p. 56.

Booklist, February 15, 1996, Carolyn Phelan, review of Just Family, p. 1020; February 15, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, p. 993; May 15, 1998, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, p. 1611; March 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know about Women's History, p. 1146; October 15, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of Chaka!: Through the Fire, p. 374; February 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Wake up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, p. 1065; March 15, 2004, Terry Glover, review of Portraits of African-American Heroes, p. 1301; November 15, 2004, John Green, review of The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali, p. 575; February 1, 2005, Gillian Engberg, review of Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, p. 970; October 15, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Cause: Reconstruction America, p. 40; February 1, 2007, Hazel Rochman, review of M.L.K.: Journey of a King, p. 50; February 15, 2007, Ilene Cooper, review of Take-off: American All-Girl Bands during WWII, p. 87.

Book Report, September-October, 1996, Karen Sebesta, review of Just Family, p. 36; November-December, 1998, Melanie Scalpello, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, and Sandra B. Connell, review of And Not Afraid to Dare, both p. 82.

Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY), February 28, 2007, Jean Westmoore, interview with Boldon, p. N9.

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1998, review of And Not Afraid to Dare, p. 312; June, 1998, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, p. 353; September, 2004, Deborah Stevenson, review of Wake up Our Souls, p. 8; January, 2005, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Champ, p. 200; March, 2005, Elizabeth Bush, review of Maritcha, p. 282; January, 2006, Elizabeth Bush, review of Cause, p. 220; May, 2007, Elizabeth Bush, review of of M.L.K., p. 360; June, 2007, Elizabeth Bush, review of Take-off, p. 405.

Crisis, May-June, 2007, Fern Gillespie, review of M.L.K., p. 36.

Horn Book, July-August, 2002, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know about Women's History, p. 483; January-February, 2005, Kathleen Isaacs, review of The Champ, p. 106, and Margaret A. Bush, review of Maritcha, p. 107.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1995, review of Just Family, p. 1700; January 1, 1998, review of And Not Afraid to Dare, p. 54; March 1, 1998, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, p. 335; December 15, 2003, review of Portraits of African-American Heroes, p. 1446; December 15, 2004, reviews of The Champ and Maritcha, both p. 1198; November 15, 2005, review of Cause, p. 1230; April 15, 2007, review of Take-off.

Kliatt, November, 1995, review of Rites of Passage, p. 21; May, 1998, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, p. 27.

Library Journal, November 15, 1999, Lisa S. Wise, review of Forgive or Forget: Never Underestimate the Power of Forgiveness, p. 86.

National Catholic Reporter, January 28, 2000, Arthur Jones, review of Strong Men Keep Coming: The Book of African-American Men, p. 15.

Publishers Weekly, March 9, 1998, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, p. 69; October 4, 1999, review of Forgive or Forget, p. 55; March 11, 2002, review of Tell All the Children Our Story, p. 73; July 7, 2003, review of Chaka!, p. 59; January 3, 2005, review of Maritcha, p. 57; January 3, 2005, review of The Champ, p. 55.

School Library Journal, May, 1996, Susan W. Hunter, review of Just Family, p. 110; March, 1998, review of And Not Afraid to Dare, p. 228; May, 1998, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, p. 150; April, 2002, Lee Bock, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know about Women's History, p. 164; January, 2004, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Portraits of African-American Heroes, p. 140; July, 2004, Robin L. Gibson, review of Wake up Our Souls, p. 117; January, 2005, Anne M. Holcomb, review of The Champ, p. 107; February, 2005, Carolyn Janssen, review of Maritcha, p. 145; November, 2005, Marianne Fitzgerald, review of Cause, p. 153; February, 2007, John Peters, review of M.L.K., p. 131; June, 2007, Renee Steinberg, review of Take-off, p. 166.

Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1996, review of Just Family, p. 205; June, 1998, review of And Not Afraid to Dare, p. 139; August, 1999, review of Thirty-three Things Every Girl Should Know, p. 165; August, 2004, review of Wake up Our Souls, p. 236; October, 2005, review of Maritcha, p. 332; April, 2007, Dotsy Harland, review of M.L.K., p. 75.

Washington Post Book World, January 5, 1997, review of The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, p. 13; July 4, 1999, review of Strong Men Keep Coming, p. 11.

ONLINE

Education World Web site,http://www.education-world.com/ (February 19, 2001), "Ten African-American Women Who ‘Dared’ to Make a Difference."

Tonya Bolden Web site,http://www.tonyabolden.com (March 20, 2008).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bolden, Tonya 1959- (Tonya Wilyce Bolden)." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bolden, Tonya 1959- (Tonya Wilyce Bolden)." Something About the Author. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/bolden-tonya-1959-tonya-wilyce-bolden

"Bolden, Tonya 1959- (Tonya Wilyce Bolden)." Something About the Author. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/scholarly-magazines/bolden-tonya-1959-tonya-wilyce-bolden

Bolden, Tonya 1959–

Tonya Bolden 1959

Author

At a Glance

Selected writings

Sources

The successful author, co-author, and editor of 15 books and numerous published articles and book reviews, Tonya Bolden did not grow up planning to be a writer. But she did love to read. A prolific and award-winning author, she has also founded her own website and online newsletter. Bolden has also taught at several universities. Her work has appeared in numerous national magazines and newspapers, including Black Enterprise, Essence, The Amsterdam News, and the New York Times Book Review. She has been called a self-help author, and has teamed up with celebrity daytime talk show host Mother Love for the advice book Forgive or Forget, which expands on Mother Loves television show of the same name. In the same vein, but going for physical as well as mental and emotional renewal, Bolden teamed up with Tony, Grammy, and Emmy nominee Eartha Kitt for Rejuvenate! (Its Never Too Late).

Born to Willie and Georgia (Howland) Bolden on March 1, 1959 in New York City, she attended a public elementary school and a private high school, graduating from The Chapin School in 1977. Bolden received her B.A. in Slavic Languages and Literature with a Russian focus, graduating magna cum laude in 1981 from Princeton University. She received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize and was University Scholar. From 1977 through 1982 Bolden was a company member of the Westside Repertory Theatre, using her skills as an actor, stage manager, assistant director, and in set construction. She then earned a masters degree, also in Slavic Languages and Literature in 1985 at Columbia University. While at Columbia she earned a certificate for the Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute.

Bolden began her professional career as a salesperson, working for Charles Alan Inc., a dress manufacturer, of New York City from 1981 to 1983. She also served as liaison between the design, production, and sales departments. In 1985 she moved on to Raoulfilm Inc. of New York City, working as office coordinator. She also assisted in the research and development of film and literary projects. Bolden moved into the editorial world in 1987 when she worked for food and wine critic William E. Rice, serving as his research and editorial assistant for one year. Also during that year she worked as an editorial consultant for MTA Arts at the Transit Office. In 1988 Bolden took a position as English instructor at Malcolm-King College; a year later she taught English at the College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources, a college for adult learners in New York City. In 1989 Bolden served as editor for one year of HARKline, a newsletter for a homeless shelter. She was editor of Quarterly Black Review of Books for the March 1994-June 1995 issues. In 1996 she returned to the College of New Rochelle.

Boldens first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook, was published in 1990 by Putnam. She also published her work as a contributor to African American History for publisher Scholastic. In 1993 and 1994 her writings took a business bent and she published Starting a Business from Your Home, and Mail-Order and Direct Response, both by Longmeadow in 1993 and 1994 respectively.

At a Glance

Born on March 1, 1959, in New York, NY; daughter of Willie J. Bolden, a garment center shipping manager, and Georgia C. (Howland) Bolden, a home-maker; married; divorced, 1990. Education: Princeton University, B.A. (magna cum laude), Slavic Languages and Literature with a Russian focus, 1981; Columbia University, M.A., Slavic Languages and Literature, 1985; Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union. Politics: Independent. Religion: Christian.

Career: Charles Alan, Inc., salesperson, 198183; Raoulfilm, Inc., office coordinator, 198587; research and editorial assistant to food and wine critic William E. Rice, 198788; Malcolm-King College, English instructor, 198889; College of New Rochelle School of New Resources, English instructor, 198990, 1996-; HARKline, newsletter editor, 198990; Quarterly Black Review of Books, editor, 199495; freelance writer and author, 1990-.

Awards: Book for the Teen Age award, for Mama, I Want to Sing, New York Public Library, 1992; Book for the Teen Age award, for And Not Afraid to Dare, New York Public Library, 1998; Best Book for Young Adults award, for 33 Things Every Gril Should Know, American Library Association (ALA), 1998; Book for the Teen Age, for Strong Men Keep Coming, New York Public Library, 1999.

Addresses: Office Agent Marie Brown Associates, 625 Broadway, Suite 902, New York, NY 10012.

Boldens writing has not been confined to adult readers; she has published several books for children aged ten and up. She co-authored with Vy Higginsen Mama, I Want to Sing in 1992. Higginsen wrote the hit gospel musical by the same name. The book, a novelization of the musical, is about an eleven-year-old girl torn between pleasing her mother by singing in the church choir and following her dream of popular music. Of this award-winning book, Bolden noted on her website, I had a great time working with the dynamic radio personality Vy Higginsen. Memorable too was meeting the two women on whom the main characters are based.

Her other books authored for this age group include Just Family, a novel published by Cobblehill in 1996, And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women by Scholastic in 1998. The latter books ten biographical sketches portray African-American women who were successful in their lives due to their hard work and dedication and who might serve as role models. Booklist said of Boldens work in And Not Afraid to Dare, She writes easily and confidently about her subjects and her compelling stories read like fiction

Bolden has served as editor for several books, including Rites of Passage: Stories About Growing Up by Black Writers from Around the World and 33 Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems, and Smart Talk by 33 Extraordinary Women. Both books were for ages ten and up, and 33 Things Every Girl Should Know was an American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults. Of this book, published by Crown in 1998, the dust jacket said, This isnt a guidebook thats going to tell you how to live. Instead, its a celebration of ways to enjoy life when youre up, and comforting words to help you get through bad times when youre down. Publishers Weekly said, Adolescent girls (and many adult women) will find healthy doses of wisdom, humor, cheerleading and inspiration in these 33 works. This panorama of perspectives will leave readers determined to face their fears and foes with courage, intelligence and compassion.

A versatile and prolific writer, Bolden has also written study guides for the Carter G. Woodson Foundation Artists-In-The Schools program, including studies on black poet Langston Hughes, on Africa and its people, and on the African contribution to music. She has maintained a busy appearance schedule, visiting schools, book fairs, libraries, book stores, presenting at workshops and serving as author-in-residence, and giving interviews on radio and television.

In early 2002 Bolden awaited the release of three new books. Tell All The Children Our Story, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., portrays the lives of African-American children growing up in America, beginning with colonial Jamestown and stretching through the years to the present. In the description of the book by Amazon.com potential book buyers are told, In a warm, personal voice, Tonya Bolden explores what it has meant to be young and black in America. The description calls Tell All The Children Our Story an important book, the first trade book of its kind.

Bolden was working on Tell All The Children Our Story when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took place. As many across the nation and the world stood transfixed and grieving, she too found herself trying to comprehend the events, the future, and her place in it. She said in her online newsletter, In the days immediately following [September 11] writing was the last thing on my mind. When I thought about what I do for a living I wondered, Does it matter? It was very hard to shake the idea that my work was, well, irrelevant, meaningful in no great way (not when compared with that of firefighters, doctors, nurses, mental health care professionals, and others on the front line of the rescue and recovery efforts). She found it difficult to keep writing, and had many false starts. Bolden explained in her online newsletter, I tried to crank stuff out, but nothing I put on paper was close to quality. Day after day I kept going through the motions, and the wastebasket filled up. No matter how hard I tried I couldnt make writing matter. Eventually she found her way and completed the book. The subjects of the book itself helped her in the task. Most of the subjects had known struggle, adversity, sorrow, pain. and gone on to do things with their lives that mattered, and matter still. And if I can tell their stories in a way that will engage the minds of the children, that will give children hope, courage, and a longing to live productive lives, well then, maybe what I do will matter, Bolden said in her online newsletter.

On the strength of the first in the 33 Things Every Girl Should Know series, early in 2002 Bolden published 33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Womens History From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths of the E.R.A. The book discusses the role of girls and women in the history of the United States up to the present. As with her other 33 Things book, this book was aimed at young adults, aged 12 and up. On another book completed for early 2002, Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church, Bolden explores the history of the black church from early efforts to freely worship, to the present time and the contributions of the Black Church to American culture. Bolden has continued her busy schedule of writing, teaching, and traveling. Despite what can be a grueling schedule, she noted in her online newsletter, I am so grateful to be making a living doing something I love so much.

Selected writings

The Family Heirloom Cookbook, Putnam, 1990.

(Contributor) African American History, Scholastic, 1990.

(Contributor) Notable Black American Women, Gale Research, 1992.

(With Vy Higginsen) Mama, I Want to Sing, Scholastic, 1992.

Starting a Business from Your Home, Longmeadow Press, 1993.

Getting into the Mail-Order Business, Longmeadow Press, 1994.

(Editor) Rites of Passage: Stories about Growing up by Black Writers from around the World, Hyperion Books for Children, 1994.

(Contributor) Educators Guide for Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions; National Public Radio, 1994.

The Book of African American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, Adams, 1996.

Just Family, Cobblehill Books, 1996.

Through Loonas Door: A Tammy and Owen Adventure with Carter G. Woodson, Corporation for Cultural Literacy, 1997.

And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African American Women, Scholastic, 1998.

(Editor) 33 Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems, and Smart Talk by 33 Extraordinary Women, Crown, 1998.

(Co-author with Mother Love) Forgive or Forget: Never Underestimate the Power of Forgiveness, HarperCollins, 1999.

Strong Men Keep Coming: The Book of African American Men, Wiley, 1999.

(Co-author with Eartha Kitt) Rejuvenate!: Its Never Too Late, Scriber, 2001.

Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Momentos of Being Young and Black in America, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001.

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Womens History From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A., Crown, 2002.

Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church, Knopf, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

The Horn Book Magazine, September-October 1995, p. 578.

Publishers Weekly, July 16, 2001, p. 150.

Online

Amazon.com, www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble.com, www.barnes&noble.com

Biography Resource Center, Gale, 2001.

Tonya Bolden website, www.tonyabolden.com

Random House Childrens Books, www.randomhouse.com

Sandy J. Stiefer

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bolden, Tonya 1959–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bolden, Tonya 1959–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/bolden-tonya-1959

"Bolden, Tonya 1959–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/bolden-tonya-1959