Lee, Tonya Lewis

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LEE, Tonya Lewis

PERSONAL:

Married Spike Lee (a filmmaker); children: Jackson, Satchel. Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1988; University of Virginia, J.D., 1991.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Producer and author. Children's television producer for cable networks Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite. Practiced law at Nixon, Hargrave, Devans and Doyle, Washington, DC.

MEMBER:

New York State Bar Association, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (board member), Children for Children Foundation (board member).

WRITINGS:

(With husband, Spike Lee) Please, Baby, Please, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Crystal McCrary Anthony) Gotham Diaries, Hyperion Books (New York, NY), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS:

Author Tonya Lewis Lee began her career as an attorney, practicing law in Washington D.C. and specializing in corporate and First Amendment issues. She then began writing and producing for television, working primarily on children's programming. Lee produced a series of Black History Month shorts for Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite, and in 2004 served as executive producer for I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, a documentary film. She speaks and writes frequently on women's and race issues.

In 2002, Lee collaborated with her husband, filmmaker Spike Lee, to write the children's book Please, Baby, Please. Drawing from their experiences as parents of two young children, the authors wrote the day-in-the-life story of an energetic two-year-old girl and her family. The toddler's day begins at 3 a.m., as her mother urges her to fall back asleep while she wants to play. The story follows her through breakfast, playtime, a bath, and bedtime. Written for an audience of young children, the book's language is rhythmic, and its messages feature positive expressions. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson, the book contains pages of bright and detailed drawings.

Please, Baby, Please met with favorable reviews from critics who found the book both entertaining and educational. "The Lees' sense of humor about bringing up baby will delight parents and children alike. The book also helps parents become more conscious of the language they use when disciplining their children," wrote Black Issues Book Review contributor Lynda Jones. Others commented on the books' vivid illustrations and realistic subject matter. "The repetitive text, sunny illustrations, and entirely familiar scenarios will make this a favorite of parents and children alike," remarked a contributor to Kirkus Reviews.

In 2004, Lee collaborated with friend and fellow author Crystal McCrary Anthony to write the novel Gotham Diaries. Set in New York, the book follows three characters—Lauren Thomas, Manny Marks, and Tandy Brooks—as they maneuver through elite African-American social circles. Socialite Tandy is in danger financially after her wealthy husband's death. She concocts an illegal real estate deal and enlists her friend, gay real estate broker Manny, to help her. Manny's involvement might jeopardize his friendship with Lauren, a beautiful and lonely woman looking for more than her marriage to her rich, philandering husband offers.

Many reviewers felt that Gotham Diaries has a distinct appeal for readers who want a juicy storyline and an insider look into New York's elite world. "Readers will be irresistibly drawn into the lives, motivations, and workings of the characters and will keep reading to find out what becomes of these people," wrote Mary Oluonye in Black Issues Book Review. Lee and Anthony "bring their intimate knowledge of the glittery New York scene to this delicious novel about ruthless social climbing and unscrupulous greed among black socialites," noted Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 13, 2004, A. Scott Walton, "Insiders Offer Look at NYC Black Elite," p. 1.

Black Issues Book Review, November-December, 2002, Lynda Jones, "The Lees Do the Write Thing," p. 40; July-August, 2004, Mary N. Oluonye, review of Gotham Diaries, p. 44.

Booklist, December 1, 2002, Karin Snelson, review of Please, Baby, Please, p. 675; May 15, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of Gotham Diaries, p. 1580.

Ebony, January, 2004, review of Please, Baby, Please, p. 24.

Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2002, review of Please, Baby, Please, p. 1533.

Newsweek, August 16, 2004, Allison Samuels, "Do the Write Thing," p. 67.

New York Amsterdam News, August 12, 2004, Natasha Grant, "Keeping a Leg up on the Black Joneses," p. 23.

New York Times, August 1, 2004, Warren St. John, "His Life Was like a Novel, but Bad Guys Make Better Stories," p. 9.

People, July 5, 2004, Amy Waldman, review of Gotham Diaries, p. 45.

Publishers Weekly, October 14, 2002, review of Please, Baby, Please, p. 82; May 17, 2004, review of Gotham Diaries, p. 33.

School Library Journal, December, 2002, Anna DeWind, review of Please, Baby, Please, p. 100.

ONLINE

Tonya Lewis Lee Home Page,http://www.tonyalewislee.com (November 19, 2004).*