Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Author of NYT Best Sellers Ashley's War & Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Sr Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 24, 2015

Discussion

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
Hi everyone, it's Gayle. Very much looking forward to our discussion and to answering your questions today. Join me for a conversation around Ashley’s War, the future of who fights America’s wars and why, and the achievements, challenges and road ahead for women on the front lines of America’s battles — from special operations to the new Rangers. Ask away!
Kiki Schirr / 史秀玉
Kiki Schirr / 史秀玉@kikischirr · Founder, WeKiki Video Chat Platform
In light of Rep. Steve Russell's review of the female Army Ranger's documents, it's clear skepticism of the role of female soldiers is alive and well. Do you see this trend disintegrating any time soon?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@kikischirr What a terrific question - I have been speaking with the West Point women and I have covered the opening of Ranger School from the start. In fact, there is a terrific column about how Ashley White of Ashley's War "paved the way for women in Ranger School" here http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/n...
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@kikischirr I think there is a lot of challenge to change and that the rumors in this era of new media are easy to create and harder to knock down. But I think the more the women like these two new Rangers and others, like those who have earned plaudits this last decade of war, including the friends and teammates of ASHLEY'S WAR, are out there earning the respect of their brothers-in-arms, the more we will see them accepted and embraced. That was part of what was so striking in ASHLEY'S WAR writing - to see how many who were skeptical about having to 'take girls out' on mission ended up seeing their contributions as invaluable by the end.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@kikischirr And thanks for your question!
Kiki Schirr / 史秀玉
Kiki Schirr / 史秀玉@kikischirr · Founder, WeKiki Video Chat Platform
@gaylelemmon @kikischirr OMG, how cool! When I was reading through your book I thought it was remarkably suited to be made into a movie (on par or better than Mark Bowden, IMHO) I'm so glad that it is!
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@kikischirr Yes - plans for a film are underway! Stay tuned. And I should have added Mark Bowden - am a huge BLACK HAWK DOWN fan!
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, Gayle! What inspired you to write? Was it a particular person or book you read? Side note: I used to hate writing through school (when I was forced to write) but have picked up blogging in the past ~3 years (although I don't have as much time as I'd like now days).
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@rrhoover Hi Ryan, Great to be in touch. What inspired me to write were the stories I found. I think it is impatience that drives me to write -- I come across a story that I feel everyone needs to know and I just am itching to get it out there. So I start reporting and then I start writing. Writing is one way to grab folks' attention and say 'hey, you have to pay attention to this,' and writing across media lets you reach folks wherever they are. Everyone lives off of links these days and social media helps us reach more people with these stories which turn the world they think they know upside-down - that is the goal.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
@gaylelemmon My first required reading in college (@ The University of Florida) was Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Typically, I loathe being forced to read something, but I really enjoyed this particular book. How did you feel about YOUR book being selected to be read by 8,000 incoming freshmen? Thanks and Go Gators!
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@andrewmettinger Hi Andrew, thanks for your question - so great to hear that you enjoyed Dressmaker. It was a great honor and a terrific chance to share the story for this book to be the freshman year read for the University of Florida. Anytime you can share a story you felt so moved by with that many young leaders at once, it is an awesome opportunity and one you want to make the most of!
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@andrewmettinger And I should add Go Gators!! (And Terps!)
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hi Gayle! 1) Tell us about when you realized you had to write this book. 2) Who are your favorite novelists? favorite journalists?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg Hi Erik, I realized I had to write ASHLEY'S WAR when I saw that it was the war story we hadn't heard. It was a story about an all-women team serving alongside Rangers and SEALs and forever changed by the friends and family they made seeing the kind of war experienced by less than 5 percent of the military - all while the combat ban was officially in place.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg Knowing that I had the story of these remarkable women and the Rangers and others they served alongside -- and that it would change the way we thought about the hero story if I did my job right, well, that was an awesome responsibility and a tremendous privilege and one whose weight I felt from the start.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg As for my favorite novelists and journalists...I read Camus, Jamaica Kinkaid, Marcus Aurelius, Emerson, George Elliot, and all contemporary war non-fiction - Phil Klay, Elliot Ackerman, Kayla Williams, and definitely Sebastian Junger. As for reporters -- Liz Sly, Missy Ryan are both terrific. That is just a start...!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@gaylelemmon @eriktorenberg i have not read any Kinkaid...I will pick her up!
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg I think you will enjoy her writing! Check it ou and LMK.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi Gayle! So wonderful to have you here. I love your website :-) (http://gaylelemmon.com/) As someone who started her career in journalism, I am so inspired by on-the-ground reporters like you who tell riveting stories about some of the most important current events happening around the globe. You are brave, and the work you do is deeply meaningful. What was the biggest professional challenge you faced while putting together the story for your new book, Ashley's War? What about personal challenge?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@melissajoykong Thanks so much - my husband worked with a great web designer on the site! Will let him know you loved it!
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@melissajoykong Wow, there are so many challenges to all this reporting, but as my cousin said when I talked to him about how hard applying for business school was, he said 'if it were easy everyone would do it.' So I work to embrace all the challenge and see it is as a part of the path. In writing DRESSMAKER, security in Afghanistan was awful and presented our biggest challenge to actually getting all the interviews done. But everyone I worked with and interviewed possessed a marvelous grace which inspired me to keep going and to do their story justice.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@melissajoykong With ASHLEY'S WAR the biggest challenge was getting the full picture of just how much these young women had seen and done at war and earning the trust of Ashley White's family and loved ones and this incredible band of sisters the likes of which America had never seen. That is the job of a reporter - to earn the respect and trust of those who share their most intimate moments with you - and I embraced that challenge and the weight of the responsibility of bringing this story of women who served with valor and heroism to a nation that needed to know their story.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
1) What writing advice do you have for a younger version of yourself? (or others aspiring writers) 2) Did you always know you were going to be a writer? When and how did you find out?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg My only real advice to myself and other writers is to keep working. And never stop doing the actual work. There is no way through it of which you will be proud other than to do the work. And to read - a lot. That is harder the busier life gets (especially when you have children and/or other responsibilities and joys!) but even more important. And exercise is critical -- whatever it is -- to escaping your headspace for a bit and giving it some ventilation!
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg And I have had a lot of careers - journalist, worked in finance, wrote on development topics, including the scourge of child marriage, but I always come back to reporting and storytelling - it is like an itch I cannot ever fully scratch and be rid of! I love moving around among different fields, but the privilege and challenge of sharing a story you feel the world should know - well, that is something that does not ever go away, so you seek to be up to that task and skilled enough at what you do to accomplish your goal and make readers care - even in this intensely noisy and preposterously crowded media moment in which we are fortunate enough to live.
Leon Lacs
Leon Lacs@leonlacs · Student at the University of Florida
@gaylelemmon - Given your success in writing about a widely debated topic (broadly, the war) and your personal connection to military families, which 2016 presidential candidate do you most align with on foreign policy/military spending?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@leonlacs I want to see all candidates actually engage on military and foreign policy issues. Not in platitudes like 'we support our troops,' but in real discussions, like how do we get rid of the silliness of sequestration and think realistically about what we are asking of our foreign policy, global engagement and young men and women in uniform. This also requires US - the American public - to put down our indifference and our reality TV for a moment and demand leaders who are engaged with the question of what America's role in the world should be and, once the objective is set, how we get there. We must check back in -- less than one percent of the nation has fought 100 percent of its wars this past decade with precious few affected. We must change that by engaging as an American public in the discussion of America in the world and what that, in specific terms, actually means.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's been the most surprising reception to the book?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg The most moving has been how many dads - -and many of them military veterans - have written to say how much they loved ASHLEY'S WAR. That the book meant a lot to them and that they didn't know these young women were out there serving and sharing the kinds of friendships so familiar to them from their own time at war. Many dads have picked up ASHLEY'S WAR for their daughters, and that means a great deal.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's your writing process? This is not an easy or short book to write.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
As for the writing process...it is not pretty, but it's efficient! I report a ton. Then come back and start writing, find the holes in the reporting, then go back to the reporting. Then I lock myself away in my office right outside my house in an old garage and put up photo after photo of the soldiers I am writing about so that I always see them when I look up to take a break. And I don't move an inch other than to use the restroom for the next eight hours! I am a night person, which as a parent is a bit of a nightmare, since children are up at dawn, but I usually start writing at 8 pm....go until 2ish...watch a 30 Rock or Everybody Hates Chris or Curb Your Enthusiasm or Gilmore Girls. And then I pass out!
Emily Hodgins
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Gayle, what has been your proudest moment of your career to date? What has been your biggest struggle to overcome?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@ems_hodge Proudest moment: a young soldier coming up to me at a book event in NC to say that ASHLEY'S WAR gave her her history back because after she returned home from her time with special ops in Afghanistan it almost felt like it hadn't happened - she had to go back to her old job and no one really understood what she had done and seen and experienced. So to know that you have assembled a story and a record of what a group of Americans did when their country asked - that is incredible. And to honor Ashley White and her remarkable family. These are all real privileges that likely come along only a precious few times in your career.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@ems_hodge As for biggest struggle - it is to beat back the noise and to follow your own path. That is why when folks ask me for advice for young people, I always say 'ignore everyone!' Listening to yourself is the wisest and surest path to your own success, however you define it, and tuning out what others think or want or feel is the proper path - that is the challenge and the trick and the joy of it all,
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
In your opinion, what is the biggest lie the government sells to the American people?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@melissajoykong Hmm. I don't know that the government is skilled or coordinated enough to sell a lie to the American people for any length of time. But I do think that if we, as a public, don't engage in the real policy issues of the day: war, spending, child care, national security, then we cannot expect our leaders to think we care. Indifference is a wonderfully fertile soil for those who rely on misinformation or quarter-truths to sell their arguments. And so being informed and engaged is our best defense as a public.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
Gayle, what kinds of opportunities did you seize / what situations did you encounter that helped to influence you and the writing you do today?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@katesegrin I grew up in a community of single moms, all of whom were working one and often two jobs. My mom worked at the phone company during the day and sold Tupperware at night. And she and my aunt and godmother all taught us by example to embrace the work and never look for shortcuts. To never look for an easy out because one didn't exist. And to keep going when all was challenging because, as my mother used to say often, 'on a scale of major world tragedies yours is not a three.' Their example continues to inspire me, especially in tougher moments.
Kate
Kate@katesegrin · Head of Social @ GitHub
@gaylelemmon wow, what an inspiring, hardworking community. Thank you for passing on their message, and showing the world what it means to embrace work by sharing your own insights and the stories of amazing women in Afghanistan and those in the military, like Ashley White.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@katesegrin Thanks so much - glad these stories speak to you and thanks for being their ambassador!
Louis Svugr
Louis Svugr@louis_sugar · I make and market stuff.
@gaylelemmon hi gayle, nice to have you here. Here in Germany we have a lot of refugees coming from war zones in the middle east and africa. Many of them are very educated, having gone to university in their war ridden home countries. Do you think having such a rough background helps/hurts when moving into entrepreneurship?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@l_sugar_ Hi, yes, I lived in Berlin and actually did a story a decade ago for the Wall Street Journal on the German green card and how challenging Germany was for those who accepted the high-tech opportunity the visa offered. I think the immigrants you have there are a tremendous resource and the question is how you get the most from the talent you now have in-country. There must be an avenue to use and deploy that talent and I know German employers see that clearly. Bis bald -
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
The media industry has its own unique set of politics. Many worry that (or have accused) the media industry of being gatekeepers rather than truth tellers. (1) What are your thoughts on this perception of the media industry? Is there truth to it? (2) What about the politics of being a journalist do you most dislike—and if you could fix the problem, how would you go about doing so?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@melissajoykong The gatekeeper point - I think it was true, but is less so. Social media plus technology has made everyone a content creator. And that means old gatekeepers go away and new ones arise. As for the politics of being a journalist, there is little I dislike, but I do think that immediate mistrust some sectors feel about reporters gets in the way of their ability to tell their own story. So I would love to see folks judge reporters on their own merits, not on their perceptions of the entire industry/arena.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
To follow up to Leon's question, what do you make of what's 2016 election right now in general? are you excited/concerned? What strong sentiments do you have about it?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg I love seeing folks engaged with the process, but I am waiting for the moment we turn serious about foreign policy and military engagement. How do we deal with Syria? What is happening in the Middle East? What about our commitment to Afghanistan? And the bigger question: what is America's role in the world? I want to see a real, substantive discussion of these issues and questions. Most of my friends are political reporters - I covered 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, plus the impeachment of Pres. Clinton for ABC News -- and I love the game, but also want to see the substance get some space and attention. That will only happen if readers click on policy stories...so look for them and click away!
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
1) What are the biggest misconceptions people have about our military? 2) Who are the most overrated and underrated presidents in this regard?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg Man, I have learned a lot about the military and how America sees our armed forces these past two years. I was in Palo Alto and someone told me that they were sad the young women in ASHLEY'S WAR didn't have any other options. I urged this reader to check the book out because the truth is there were a bunch of West Pointers and ROTC graduates in those pages. They could have done anything with their careers, but chose the military because serving something greater than themselves - in this case, in uniform - was what they chose. Many military folks do indeed have a slew of other options, but serving America is what they choose.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg Another misconception is that women serve for different reasons than men. That is just not what I have seen. The women of ASHLEY'S WAR simply wanted to serve their country, alongside the best of the best, on a mission that mattered to the war. That's it. There was no point to be proven in their minds, but a mission to be accomplished.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg As for presidents, I think George W Bush connected to folks in the military in a very personal way that sticks with a lot of men and women in uniform. President Obama makes a lot of trips to Walter Reed that are quiet but have a strong impact on the families involved.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
When you see that the military takes up as much spending as it does - do you see that as ridiculous, or an inevitability?
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
@eriktorenberg That is such a good question - the question is where does the money go? Right now the military is being downsized in a way that is driven by the budget cuts of sequestration, not by overarching strategy - it is because spending cuts had to happen and Washington punted on the responsibility of agreeing upon the when and where. I am not for cutting the military without being guided by an overarching set of goals upon which civilian and military leaders have agreed. That to me seems in no one's best interest.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon@gaylelemmon · Author
It has been great fun and a lot of fun work to join you today! Thanks for having me and come to my web site, Twitter (@gaylelemmon) or Facebook -- look forward to seeing you there!