Sharon Draper wrote Tears of a Tiger as a personal challenge to herself. She had been teaching high school and middle school for many years and just knew she "could write a book that they would love from the very first page" (Sharon Draper website). She wanted to capture their imagination, so she chose high interest issues, focusing on students with real problems. Tears of a Tiger focuses on sensitive teen issues like drinking and driving and suicide, but Draper did not write the story from any personal experience.
On Sharon Draper's website, she writes this about Tears of a Tiger:
"I don’t think I had a grand plan in mind when I wrote it. I just wanted to write a good book. I certainly had no agenda designed to send a message to young people. When students ask me today 'What do you think we should learn from this book?' I tell them 'Whatever you got out of it!'"(qtd. in Sharon Draper website)
Draper definitely succeeded in her personal challenge. Tears of a Tiger has won numerous awards and resonates powerfully with student readers.