Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (2011), about a young entrepreneur who supported her community under the Taliban, Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield (2015), and The Daughters of Kobani (2021), the story of what ISIS has left in its wake: the most far-reaching experiment in women’s equality in the least likely place in the world brought to you by women who have been battling ISIS town by town, street by street since 2013. These women served as America’s ground force in the fight to defeat the Islamic State and The Daughters of Kobani tells for the first time this David and Goliath story of how they came to serve ISIS its first battlefield defeat. Ashley’s War is currently being developed into a major motion picture at Universal with Reese Witherspoon producing, and The Daughters of Kobani has been optioned by HiddenLight Productions, founded by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sam Branson, and Chelsea Clinton.
Lemmon, who serves as an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, along with private sector leadership roles in emerging technology and national security firms, began writing about entrepreneurship in conflict and post-conflict zones while studying for her MBA at Harvard following a decade covering politics at the ABC News Political Unit. This work from Afghanistan, Rwanda, Liberia, Bosnia, and beyond has been published by the World Bank, Harvard Business School, the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, and CNN among others. Following MBA study, she led public policy analysis during the global financial crisis at the global investment firm PIMCO.
Lemmon is a frequent speaker on national security topics, including at the Aspen Security Forum and TED forums, and has given talks at West Point, ODNI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the National Infantry Museum. Her TED Talk on Ashley’s War and the reshaping of the hero story to include women has received more than a million views worldwide. She regularly appears on MSNBC, CNN, PBS, and National Public Radio. Along with her national security work, she has reported and written extensively on topics including child marriage in the United States for PBS NewsHour and on school choice, single moms, and the power and importance of girls’ ambition for The Atlantic. Lemmon holds an MBA from Harvard and received the Dean’s Award for her work on women’s entrepreneurship. In addition to serving as a Robert Bosch Fellow in Germany, she served as a Fulbright scholar in Spain, on the board of the international aid organization Mercy Corps and is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee. She speaks Spanish, German, and French and is conversant in Dari and Kurmanci.