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She Persisted: Florence Griffith Joyner

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Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger, a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!

In this chapter book biography by Rita Williams-Garcia, the award-winning author of One Crazy Summer, readers learn about the amazing life of three-time Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner—and how she persisted.

Considered the fastest woman of all time, Florence Griffith Joyner, also known as Flo Jo, set two world records in 1988 that still stand today. But getting there wasn't easy, and Flo Jo had to overcome many challenges along the way.

Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton, black-and-white illustrations throughout, and a list of ways that readers can follow in Florence Griffith Joyner's footsteps and make a difference! A perfect choice for kids who love learning and teachers who want to bring inspiring women into their curriculum.

And don’t miss out on the rest of the books in the She Persisted series, featuring so many more women who persisted, including Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Oprah Winfrey, and more!

Praise for She Persisted: Florence Griffith Joyner:

"A quietly remarkable biographical read that encourages elementary students of any gender to take a closer look at the life of Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner and her admirable resolve to work hard in pursuit of her dreams." —School Library Journal

ISBN-13: 9780593115961

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication Date: 06-29-2021

Pages: 80

Product Dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.30(d)

Age Range: 6 - 9 Years

Series: She Persisted Series

Rita Williams-Garcia ( is the celebrated author of novels for young adults and middle grade readers. Her most recent novel, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Literature for Youth/Teens and was a 2017 National Book Award Finalist. Williams-Garcia is most known for her Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning Gaither Sisters trilogy that begins with One Crazy Summer, recipient of the Newbery Honor and the Scott O'Dell Prize for Historical Fiction. She is a three-time National Book Award Finalist. She holds a BA in liberal arts from Hofstra University and an MA in English from Queens College at CUNY. She lives in Queens with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter @Onecrazyrita. Chelsea Clinton is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World; She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History; She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game; Don't Let Them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe; It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!; Start Now!: You Can Make a Difference; with Hillary Clinton, Grandma's Gardens and Gutsy Women; and, with Devi Sridhar, Governing Global Health: Who Runs the World and Why? She is also the Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, where she works on many initiatives, including those that help empower the next generation of leaders. She lives in New York City with her husband, Marc, their children and their dog, Soren. You can follow Chelsea Clinton on Twitter @ChelseaClinton or on Facebook at Gillian Flint ( is an illustrator who has a passion for painting in watercolors. She has been drawing and creating characters for as long as she can remember. Her work has been published in the USA, the UK and Australia. In her spare time she enjoys reading and gardening at her home in the UK. You can follow her on Instagram @gillianflint_illustration. Alexandra Boiger ( has illustrated nearly twenty picture books, including the She Persisted series by by Chelsea Clinton; the popular Tallulah series by Marilyn Singer; and the Max and Marla books, which she also wrote. Originally from Munich, Germany, she now lives outside of San Francisco, California, with her husband, Andrea; daughter, Vanessa; and two cats, Luiso and Winter. You can follow Alexandra on Instagram @alexandra_boiger.

Read an Excerpt

Dear Reader,

As Sally Ride and Marian Wright Edelman both powerfully said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” When Sally Ride said that, she meant that it was hard to dream of being an astronaut, like she was, or a doctor or an athlete or anything at all if you didn’t see someone like you who already had lived that dream. She especially was talking about seeing women in jobs that historically were held by men.

I wrote the first She Persisted and the books that came after it because I wanted young girls—and children of all genders—to see women who worked hard to live their dreams. And I wanted all of us to see examples of persistence in the face of different challenges to help inspire us in our own lives.

I’m so thrilled now to partner with a sisterhood of writers to bring longer, more in-depth versions of these stories of women’s persistence and achievement to readers. I hope you enjoy these chapter books as much as I do and find them inspiring and empowering.

And remember: If anyone ever tells you no, if anyone ever says your voice isn’t important or your dreams are too big, remember these women. They persisted and so should you.

Chelsea Clinton

Chapter 1: A Girl Called Dee Dee
Chapter 2: Everything!
Chapter 3: Inches Away
Chapter 4: Bittersweet
Chapter 5: Going for the Gold
Chapter 6: Dreams and Beyond
How You Can Persist

Chapter 1
A Girl Called Dee Dee

Florence Griffith Joyner was an Olympic champion who won gold medals and broke world records as a sprinter. But before there was Florence Griffith Joyner, or “Flo-Jo,” there was a girl called Dee Dee.

Long before she was born, her newly married parents, Robert and Florence Delores Griffith, lived in a small town in the Mojave Desert, where their family grew. The Mojave Desert spans from southeastern Los Angeles, California, to parts of Nevada, Arizona and Utah, and the Griffith family lived in the area near Los Angeles. The Mojave Desert is a hot, dry, wide-open space with mountain ranges, sagebrush and red desert blooms on tops of prickly cactus plants. The calls of owls, coyotes and bobcats peppered the night air. In the daytime the Griffiths’ backyard was plentiful with lizards, snakes, slow-moving tortoises, fast jackrabbits—and kids!

In 1959, Christmas came early for the six Griffith children. On December 21st, Bobby, Weldon, Vivian, Kathleen, Robert and Elizabeth welcomed their seventh sibling, Delorez Florence Griffith, into the family.

Delorez Florence Griffith was named after her mother, Florence Delores. Mrs. Griffith wanted her daughter to be her own unique self. So, her first name, Delorez, had its own spelling, and Florence was her middle name. The Griffiths took to calling their newest family member Dee Dee.

Mrs. Griffith saw something special in each of her seven children. In Dee Dee she saw a child who seemed to float like a ballerina as she moved. But Dee Dee was also speedy and earned another nickname, Lightning, as she ran through the house.

Mr. and Mrs. Griffith found ways to keep their children’s minds and bodies active. Mrs. Griffith, a fast runner, played racing games with her children. She would line them up and call, “Ready, set, go!” Off they’d run! Even though Dee Dee’s brothers and sisters were older, that didn’t stop Dee Dee from racing to win.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 A Girl Called Dee Dee 1

Chapter 2 Everything! 10

Chapter 3 Inches Away 18

Chapter 4 Bittersweet 26

Chapter 5 Going for the Gold 35

Chapter 6 Dreams and Beyond 44

How You Can Persist 51

References 54