Education, writing and books have been constants in Tonia Renee Lee’s life since she was a child.
Today, she holds multiple degrees, including a doctorate, and is the author of seven books. Lee will have the opportunity to share those writings on Saturday, as one of eight female authors who will be celebrated by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority at its Delta Authors on Tour at the Metro Tech Event Center in Oklahoma City.
Lee will be the only Lawtonian presenting at the event, and she said she’d love for residents from her hometown to be in the audience as she and other authors share their literature at A Red Reading Affair in Oklahoma.
The daughter of Ernest and Claudine Lee and an “Army Brat,” Lee attended Kuntz Elementary, Tomlinson Junior High and Eisenhower High before earning her bachelor’s degree at what is now the University of Central Oklahoma. She earned her masters in public administration from the University of Southern California (USC), her Education Specialist degree in educational leadership from Liberty University and doctorate of ministry from University of Minnesota.
Lee said she doesn’t remember a time when reading and writing were important to her.
She traces her serious writing back to high school and a teacher named Ruth Dishman. Lee said the words of praise Dishman offered when she turned in a poem remain with her to this day, adding the power of Dishman’s praise was the encouragement she needed to continue writing poetry.
“I saw her once, when I came back for an in-service program I did,” Lee said, of her high school mentor.
That writing continued into college, and it was while she was a student at USC that her first book, “Slavery Without Chains,” was published. Lee said the poetry contained there centers on the power of self-help, and calls upon the African-American community to tackle the issues that bind them.
“We enslave ourselves,” she said, of the societal issues the African-American community must battle and overcome. “Self sufficiency speaks for itself.”
The book is special because it was self-published, paid for by her father. She said Ernest Lee also is the one who ensured his daughter would receive a strong education, pushing her toward education and paying for her higher education efforts. She credits the strength of her parents for her life today.
“Without them, I would not have gotten started,” she said, of her writing and education efforts. “I’m still learning, still attending classes.”
Lee has gone on to write seven books: a cookbook (“Big Mom’s and Little Mom’s Cook Book”), a book of quotes from relatives (“Reflective Quotes”) and multiple books of poetry. While the cookbook was fun (she no longer has copies), Lee especially enjoyed crafting “Reflective Quotes” because it reflects the wisdom of beloved family members. And, that’s important because it allows her to preserve memories and family ties, she said.
“The quotes made sense,” she said, of the simple rationale behind writing it.
Like other members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Lee believes in the importance of support. The point of the sorority’s Delta Authors on Tour program to promote members who are authors, bringing them to national attention through tours and ensuring copies of their works are available to entertain and challenge other readers.
“We feel we need to read and support these authors,” she said, adding she is delighted to be a member of this year’s tour and having a chance to shine for hometown friends. “I’m proud to be a Lawtonian.”