Releasing for President’s Day: When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

Seeding the journey out

When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive TimesToday is the official release of my new children’s book, When a Bully is President: Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times.

Decolonization. De-escalation. Disengagement.
True power. Resilience. Creative force.
Equity. Inner authority. Self-care.
Community respect.
Self love.

I didn’t pause. I sat down and wrote the truth book as soon as Matthew suggested I create something in response to the 2016 election, because I know. I know what it’s like to be bullied in big and small ways. I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t have any power in a situation. I knew this is how kids were feeling. Not because I was hearing it on my social media, but because I know.

I immediately wrote the book because in my imagination I could see the faces of all the kids I’ve worked with over the last 20 years. I reached toward them like I always do, because I know. I recognize myself in them which is why I continue to share what I use to strengthen myself and firm my own resilience in a larger framework that does not want or welcome me.

This book is not your usual children’s book. It’s more of a self-care book for kids using truth and creativity as tools to deal with bullying. You might say this is the heart of social justice. The inner work, but for kids.

As social justice activists know, burn out is real. Actively engaging with the world at large about our own oppression takes a toll. Coming face to face with the words they call us, the things they think about us, the eternally clever ways they sidestep equity and perpetuate power over us instead of true power rising can be exhausting and sometimes just heartbreaking. Microaggressions or massive legislation. How do we mediate this for ourselves let alone for our kids? How do we support their education and activism without burdening them with their own oppression, but instead enlivening them to become more true to their selves?

Rising from a Holistic frame instead of a Western one, When a Bully is President does not focus on fighting and resisting, although ACTION and ACTIVISM are supported. It’s about what makes us strong from the inside out. Truth and creativity. Tools like these call in our full self and are often dismissed or diminutized precisely because of their power and ability to make us more resilient and stronger for the long haul.

When a Bully is President is about reclaiming that inner journey for our kids as they participate in today’s activism with the hope that as they develop discernment and self-love, the work toward social justice will continue and evolve tomorrow. True power rises. From the lowest up and from the inside OUT!

The book is available NOW through most online retailers and can be ordered by bookstores through Ingram.

We’re also taking book orders at my press which I’ll sign and ship out next week along with a sticker.

In the makes is the reader’s guide and how to stage a community project. I’ll share those later this week along with a short reading list about few of the pieces at the core of my work if anyone is interested in their own study.

Want to explore creating your own children’s book like When a Bully is President? DO IT! We are in deep need!
Go here to learn more.

The revolution is always now, because darling, you are the revolution! Love you. xomaya

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Mother, America

Now I Know

Mother, America

Like my mother
I can never be fully separated
from you.
Born here.
This is where I learned to breathe,
to walk the earth,
love the people.
I know the seasons and the sun,
the way the clouds come
and where the winds go.

You named me a name
I cannot take off
even if I go away.

I cannot deny you.

every minute
you show that you don’t want me,
that your love is conditional
if at all.
And although we are
forever tied
name to name
cannot claim me
as your own.

Without you Mother, America
I had to
the curve of my own face,
the tone of my own voice,
the power of my own hands.

Without you Mother, America
I taught myself
my own love.
now I am
my own mother,
my own country.

So Blessings Mother!

I finally know
your gift.

I will survive.

only a mother’s hate
can prepare you for


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VIDEO and DRAWING PAGE for When A Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

the revolution is allways NOW

It is with fierce love that I share a reading and arte of my children’s book When a Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times for today’s inauguration.

In the days ahead we must know the truth of who we are and that we are pure creative power.

Go slowly and carry your pen. Document your life and experiences, your thoughts, your children, the people you know. Write. When you don’t have words, draw. Use your creative power to guide you and know yourself. Let it flow through these days and through your heart.

Because if we’re going to make it through, and we will, we’re going to have to open new paths, dream new worlds, write a whole new story.

Download coloring page for When a Bully is PresidentWe need our creativity more than ever.

Take care today. And tomorrow. Take care during all of these days.

They will test our love, for ourselves, for each other. These days will test our love for truth and our love for humanity.

But through everything, creativity will guide us back to the truth of ourselves.

Voice is a revolution. The time is now.

Blessings OUT,


Pre-orders available through Reflection Press.

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Update on When a Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

Flying Truth from When a Bully Is President

UPDATE 2017:

As I had hoped my IndieGoGo campaign and private contributions helped jump start some of the big shifts we’re making in 2017:

 from When a Bully is President

We are focused on making books in a big way right now, but even so Matthew and I will continue to share everything we learn about having an indie-press and using children’s books as a radical act. The bigger lessons will be added to the school over time. And I’ll use my blog to give an inside look into some of the more mundane lessons along the way.

First off is a look into our first children’s book.  One of the limitations of traditional publishing is the long, slow turn-around time. It generally takes anywhere from 1-2-3 years to get a book published. In terms of current events, the momentum and depth of a story could be lost in a trek that long. If we are to see and use children’s books as a radical tool, we need to be able to document and tell current stories in real time. Having a faster turn-around time expands our opportunities exponentially by allowing us to be more responsive and relevant in the moment. This gives us the chance to build on current events, activist movements and social lessons through children’s books. In books we can contextualize these current events with larger historical frames so that we have tools to help our kids develop critical thinking and other skills to deal with what’s going on in their lives right now.

The Walk Away from When a Bully is President

The idea to create a children’s book in response to the 2016 election was conceived on November 9. My pie in the sky fantasy was to have it in folks’ hands by inauguration day, January 20. Through life and holidays and travel and all three of us getting fabulously sick and a whole bunch of other stuff, the reality looks more like it will be in hand by the end of February.

Having never done anything like this before it’s super cool to know how fast you can actually get a book out. But this isn’t just a standard picture book. This is a bilingual 48 page book that includes tons of definitions and resources and references in the back matter. This is a hefty piece loaded with truth and creativity. And from conception to completion it will have taken 4 months. That’s radical.

So where are things at right now?

Feeling Through from When a Bully is President

Here’s what’s done:

  • Text written
  • Text translated—thanks Marta!!!
  • Layout designed
  • 9 pcs of arte complete
  • 14 pcs of arte in various stages of completion
  • 4 pps back matter in process

Even though When a Bully Is President, Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times won’t be in hand on January 20 for inauguration day, we will be sharing a video of me reading the full text and showing some of the arte. We will also have a downloadable coloring page related to the book.

Base of Love I AM from When a Bully is President

It has been a heart strengthening exercise creating this book. I feel stronger and bolder in a way I was ready for but had never felt before. I’ve also learned a great deal about both limitation and drive. And I continue to come to terms with how silence and invisibility have always impacted me and continue to create shapes and patterns in my life. Through every step I think about the kids and the adults who will hold this book. I send you love and reflection through these pages.

You are gorgeous.

You belong here.

You are the revolution and truth.


Pre-orders for When a Bully is President will re-open at the end of January.

To join our mailing list go here

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School of the Free Mind Goes Independent

Dreams, Rain and Waking Up in 2017

Right now, the last 3 ½ years feel more like a dream than anything else. 

Matthew and I dropped into an engaged, active, productive, on task mode with materials and community. Creating School of the Free Mind was a fantastic experience that rose from our desire to share everything we know with our communities. It’s pure heart and soul with lots of brass tack info from my 20+ years in the children’s book industry and our journey into creating our own indie press.

The process was intense, a huge undertaking that taught both of us immense amounts. Focused, structured, driven, social—ALL in service to getting the materials down. It’s a strange feeling to realize you did something out of the ordinary for a very long time, and now it’s done. Maybe we had to enter some kind of altered state to pull this school thing off! I don’t know but I’m laughing my taco off the more I feel like myself.

Instead of putting yet another story aside that was haunting me, 2017 opened with work on a book of my own, and nothing but more of my own books in the cue. As much as I LOVED teaching and especially the supercoolfolks I got to groove with, it was a relief not to fill my head with new class materials, essays, videos, calendars, schedules, interviews, sessions, outreach and so much more. Just me and my books. Nada mas.

It’s a comfort with so much change and unknown coming on in the world. Obama gives his farewell address tonight ushering in the next president elect. If ever these are the days to come into ourselves, our power, our true voice. These are our days. I am claiming these days as my own.

We are inviting you to do the same.

As we release the school to independent study the focus of the artistauthor journey becomes more personal. Taking responsibility for not only ones self but also for one’s creative power and expression becomes key. All of the teaching is geared to support what you know and you coming into voice from an inner authority. Your confidence and power. Your true voice and story. That’s all that’s important. I know once creativity is explored, owned, claimed and engaged with as one wants and needs, the flow can be profound. Having a holistic framework supports your heart and spirit in coming into greater strength so you can hold your own power and expand your creative flow now and forever. School of the Free Mind is full on. It is meant for days like these.

As I continue to wake up and return more wholly to the creative life, my desire to learn about the power of our creative flow grows. This is my lifelong practice and what the school is based on. It’s time to return as a new me to my old ways. I feel this is the strongest position for me to share from. ‘Living the creative life’ is something that is foreign to most of us.

In a world that aligns success with self-sacrifice and submission, School of the Free Mind calls out independence, heart’s desire and true power for PoC, Indigenous and Queer peoples.

I still have so much to learn.

There’s a heavy rain in San Francisco. I’ve been keeping the candles lit, turning inward. My body has been rebalancing, always a sign of spirit calling. I’m taking this turn to deepen my practice, go back to my visions and stories, listening from the inside. Starting a new fire at 53 in 2017. I’m extremely excited for the walk ahead. I sense rocks and rivers. I imagine myself a boat and star at the same time waking up.

Learn more about School of the Free Mind here.

Scholarships now available.

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The Rainbow Alphabet and The Girl in the Library

Finding Voice In a World of Silence

Two books that support kids: an LGBTQ intro for littles and a story about a girl coming into voice

The Rainbow Alphabet with Mami Q and The Girl in the Library, The Library in the Girl will be published in 2017 by Reflection Press.

Written and illustrated by me, The Rainbow Alphabet with Mami Q is a playful take on the Mother Goose tradition that respectfully centers and celebrates LGBTQ experiences and stories for kids. Rooted in the concept that as we center LGBTQ kids we center folks from ALL our communities, Mami Q sings us through a simple understanding of queer identities. Even with so many letters in the rainbow alphabet, Mami suggests that one day we will need more words or maybe better words to speak the truths of more people.

Colorfully illustrated, fully inclusive, this book will serve as an easy place to speak the words for educators, parents and caregivers of what LGBTQIA2S means. Help kids find their own confidence in understanding themselves, their families and the world.

The Girl In the Library, The Library In the Girl is my story. The one I’ve been telling kids in schools for the last 20 years. I grew up during a time when I did NOT see ANY books that looked or sounded like me and my family or folks I knew. I think because of that, I used to draw my big, round Chicana face into the blank page in the backs of books! Eventually I began drawing a whole series of characters and later writing poems and stories. As a child I couldn’t find books that looked and sounded like me in the library, now the library has books written, illustrated, even published by me!

Having books that are ours in the library helps the library feel more like home. I hope these new books support more and more kids in feeling like the library is theirs to enjoy and is theirs to fill up with books written, illustrated, even published by them too!

PRE-ORDER these books and more and support my work with Reflection Press and School of the Free Mind, through my Indiegogo campaign:

I’ve also added another book to my list of 6 in case you missed it, When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times. You can read more about it in my last blog post.

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When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times

A children’s book to support kids and adults in the wake of the 2016 US election.
Pre-Order When a Bully is President through Indiegogo

The book can be used as a way to talk about oppression in society or as a straight up tool to talk about the current political climate and the next 4 years with your kids.

When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times will be published by Reflection Press January 2017 (ideal for ages 7-10, bilingual English/Spanish)

As stories surface near and far about increased harassment in the schools and on the streets, we know how important it is for our kids to see us center and value our lives and communities. This book is an opportunity to talk more about what’s going on, how it fits into the history of bullying in the US and what we can do about it, while providing a structure to use our creative power to stay strong and focused on ourselves.

The imagery and text centers, celebrates and respects
American Indians
African Americans
Mexican and Latinx Americans
LGBTQIA2S Americans
Muslim Americans
Asian Americans
Disabled Americans
Americans who ID as women or girls

Join me in developing/continuing traditions that teach our kids expressive, creative skills and self esteem to continue negotiating life in the US. Rooted in the Claiming Face curriculum I’ve been teaching for the last 20 years, When a Bully is President/Truth and Creativity for Oppressive Times supports our families and communities in becoming stronger by investing in our own identity, creative power and self love. *Includes extra pages in the back with definitions, projects, resources and support materials.

This book was conceived on November 9th . Matthew and I are challenging ourselves to get it out to our communities within the US in time for inauguration on Jan 20th.

As radical indie-publishers we want to be responsive to our communities and push the limits of what’s possible in publishing. We believe our kids can’t wait for books about the things affecting their lives right now.  Owning our own press is an important step towards mobility, #ownvoices and true creative power rising.

Honing our skills alongside our hearts and spirits helps us produce strong, deep children’s books quickly and effectively for our communities and support the flow of truth, respect and love that we need in these days.Pre-Order When a Bully is President through Indiegogo

PRE-ORDER this “emergency response” book through my current Indiegogo campaign


Learn how to hone your voice and art and start your own press and publish children’s books too. Go to School of the Free Mind, an independent online learning environment centering PoC, Queer and Indigenous people (reduced 2017 membership also available through my current Indiegogo campaign)

Voice is a revolution. xomaya

Standing Together in Truth

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The Case of the Missing Books/10 years of data

#ownvoices in Children’s Books: A State of Emergency/ Blog Series 1 of 3

The graph below shows the children’s books that were missing by POC and Indigenous people in the children’s book industry over the last 10 years. That is if we were creating an equitable number of books per year to white Americans.

It can be challenging to wrap our minds around the reality of the publishing industry even though most parents, educators and librarians know it’s hard to find books that reflect our communities.

Visuals like this help us understand the extent of silence and invisibility we live with.

Books missing from PoC/Indigenous Authors

We know what’s at the heart of this kind of absence and we know how it impacts our children. The need for inclusive children’s books is not news to many of us, but it is finally in the news. For the thousands of folks who have worked for decades to move this conversation forward this is an important step.

But I want to talk about what’s not in the news. In fact, it may not reach the news. I want to talk about how this silence and invisibility has affected us as adults and the impact it’s had on our #ownvoices in children’s books and our lives.

I estimate with authors, artists, editors, designers and publishers, we need more than 5000 skilled people every year to create these missing children’s books and that’s only the beginning. This a HUGE untapped resource in our communities. But for many of us like me, it’s more than just learning skills, the real work is becoming strong enough within ourselves to be heard in the world. This is the real impact of living in a world of silence and invisibility. Negotiating the inner journey.

Through creating children’s books we have the opportunity to negotiate not only our own silence but change the kind of voice our children and our communities live with. Everyone has a story.

Read PART 2 of this series about what I learned teaching how to create children’s books these last three years.

or check out my Indiegogo campaign for 6 books that push the boundaries of publishing and support POC, indigenous and queer voices rising.

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What I Learned from 3 Years of Teaching How to Make Children’s Books

#ownvoices in Children’s Books: A State of Emergency/ Blog Series 2 of 3

I’m no stranger to the inequities that exist for People of Color, Indigenous and Queer authors and artists. I’ve been teaching and lecturing about it and its impact for 20 years in the children’s book industry. I speak from knowing and teach from understanding on a personal level.

So why the element of surprise, or at least something akin to surprise, when after teaching how to make children’s books for the last 3 years, I confirmed what I already knew?

Maybe the heart is always surprised when faced with the reality of inequity. I don’t know. Maybe it just hit too close to home.

What I saw was nothing short of a consistent and persistent pressure in our society to silence and erase marginalized communities, explicitly and implicitly. No surprise, right? Nope.

Still totally shocking? Yes.

I am haunted by what I witnessed. Not once, not twice. But to some degree, constantly. I cannot give one individual example that isn’t echoed nearly verbatim by another and another. Real lives and hearts and bodies.

As I paid attention to what happens when people tell their stories, or try to tell them, I could see clearly the shape and layers of our oppression. I could see more clearly my own as I stood among my people and listened.

What I had initially thought was my own story, what I initially thought were my own limitations and wounds, I confirmed without doubt were shared by all of us in a community.

Some people outside of PoC, Indigenous or Queer communities, may have had some similarities. Sadly I noticed white Americans who experienced strong trauma in their lives carried similar challenges to folks who’s primary trauma was simply being born to a marginalized community. The difference however, is that being a part of a marginalized community permeates all aspects of life, ancestry, past, present and potentially future.

So how does silence and invisibility in children’s books impact our ability to tell our stories and be seen?

I will answer with my own experiences because I know that my story holds the bones of all the stories I heard. To some degree, what I am about to share I saw in all of us. It moved me to understand that it was not isolated, but consistent and persistent for PoC, Indigenous and Queer authors and artists.

  • Before telling my stories my mind would be distracted by doubts.

Even though I am filled with stories I would think that I need to be formally educated to tell them ‘properly.’ I felt that no one will listen and that my story is not important. It is not the kind of story that gets attention. Or that I can’t tell my story, too many people would be hurt or angry if I told what I really want to tell, so safer left unsaid.

  • When I began telling my stories I couldn’t get it right no matter how hard I tried. Everything kept slipping from my hands.

I would feel inspired and excited but once I got going the story would be disjointed and confusing; endings were difficult. I couldn’t naturally hold my voice and flow. And if I ‘tried’ to write I felt all this pressure and seemed to fold up; I couldn’t figure things out or understand how to put things together. After a lifetime of hearing stories in the media, there seemed to be a disconnect between ‘what a story is’ and what my story is.

  • What’s important to me doesn’t seem important to anyone else. I have to constantly stand up for myself.

White editors unconsciously modified a story of mine, erasing the most essential part that had to do with identity and belonging. They were ‘educational experts’ so I didn’t question their frame at the time. It wasn’t until after publication that I found the change. I felt that by not being on my guard I let kids down and was misrepresented.

  • I want to be seen and acknowledged for my work. At the same time, who do I think I am?

Just as my work was about to take off in a significant way, I got sick, very sick and was derailed for years from doing what I have been compelled to do all my life. Survival took all my focus. I realized that being seen felt dangerous in a way I could not put into words and my body responded unconsciously. It was only after I was out of survival mode that I could fully understand what took place and why.

  • When I engage with bigger systems in the world, I feel smaller.

I get overwhelmed, feel heavy, even lose interest. It’s like I can’t speak the language or play some invisible game that everyone else seems to already understand. I am very smart, but end up feeling dumb and ill equipped.

  • Violence in the media against my communities can take me out for hours, days, sometimes weeks. It just depends.

Experiences like Orlando light up the pathways of fear that exist within me, my friends and family. Depending on how close it hits to my own experience as a woman, Chicanx, queer or those I love, I can’t work as well; I don’t want to speak to as many people; my creative flow gets jammed; I have to take a break from projects that bring out my vulnerability and/or power. I hide inside in a million different ways.

Experiences like the ones above may come in waves, or at different times and in an ever changing variety of ways. It can be challenging at first to see the accumulative effect in yourself, especially without placing blame squarely on your own shoulders. But when we see the patterns in context, we begin to understand that we are not alone.

How can we create change when the silencing is so pervasive?

Touching the reality of silence in the world, including our own is an invaluable step.

It’s important to respect silence and how it has kept us alive. And when it is time, and not before, we can begin the walk home, toward #ownvoices.

The healing is real. The power that’s rising matters. As the adults, we must begin with ourselves. If we want to change our representation in children’s books in a profound and lasting way, we can’t leave it to someone else. We must begin with the silence in our own lives, in our own communities. We were once the kids we’re talking about. We are the ones who can make the most difference.

What we need are the stories in all of us. This is what we must call forth. The lasting storytellers will rise and keep telling more stories. But right now, we need everyone’s stories. Your story. Your voice. Your experience. Your life. Your laughter, your way of seeing. You. Are. Filled. With. Stories. The stories of a hundred years, five hundred years! MORE!

I understand the insideousness of silence, the layers and layers. It is a surprisingly powerful act for those of us who aren’t used to seeing ourselves in books or hearing our voices in the world. It can be hard to put into words what happens on a soul, even ancestral level as our voice grows stronger in the face of insistent silence.

What I know.

When our children see us center ourselves as PoC, Indigenous and Queer people in children’s books we break silence and change the world they see everywhere else.

No child should long for their own image.

Join me in the truth that we are not just here, we are gorgeous in our BEing!

Support children’s books as a radical act….support your own gorgeous voice rising.

Read PART 3 of this series and learn how School of the Free Mind, my online school, supports #ownvoices rising in children’s books.

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5 Ways SCHOOL OF THE FREE MIND Commits to #OWNVOICES Rising in Children’s Books NOW

#ownvoices in Children’s Books: A State of Emergency/ Blog Series 3 of 3

What I shared in Part One and Part Two of this series contributes to why I felt driven to stronger action with School of the Free Mind, my online school. The children’s book industry feels like a state of emergency for our communities and a powerful place to invest our efforts to make our people stronger.

For me personally, storytelling and art have been invaluable tools to negotiate not only my own silences but renegotiate the kinds of silences our communities live with.

The school is where I share everything I know. I want to seed these courses OUT as far as I can. I want to hear our voices RISE! I want our children to hear!

So here are five ways we’re committing to #ownvoices rising at School of the Free Mind:

ONE.  greater availability

Beginning in 2017 get the whole school for the whole year for a low fee.

Class fees that would have added up to over $1200.00 are now 120.00 (w/ limited scholarships also available).

The school includes all 6 of my courses allowing you to focus your learning on attaining skills, personal healing or both. The school is independent study to support personal and creative responsibility and accommodate your life!

school of the free mind courses


PoC, Indigenous, Queer *centered*

Materials and teaching prioritize PoC, Indigenous and Queer experiences, social justice and own voice through children’s book reviews, community spotlights, themes and conversations about healing.

Some of our amazing community spotlights in children’s books include:

 Zetta Elliott, Debbie Reese, Innosanto Nagara, Cory Silverberg, Francisco Alarcon, Kwame Alexander, R. Gregory Christie, Janine Macbeth, S. Bear Bergman, Gayle Pitman and many more!


THREE.  holistic teaching style

School of the Free Mind’s learning environment takes into account the whole person. The INSIDE: heart, body, mind, spirit and unknown. The OUTSIDE: family, community, culture, ancestry, society, world, history and the unknown. This helps create a safe space for our full selves where we are free to BE, SEE, LEARN and SPEAK.

FOUR.  acknowledge the impact

course-symbolsEach of our personal experiences is built upon the generations that came before us. Through teaching, I’ve gotten an intimate view of folks who thought they had no story come to understand that they are full of stories. This is such a powerful transition of voice, I call it ancestral healing. It can result in a flood of creative power.

FIVE.  a place to reclaim

School of the Free Mind provides a private online learning environment at an affordable fee with materials that respect and reflect PoC, Indigenous and Queer People. The teaching style promotes the presence of the whole person and experience, as well as the potential for healing and greater power through your own creativity. This creates a shift in power through reclaiming what is and always has been yours, your #ownvoice.


I am compelled not only as a parent but from working with thousands of kids and teachers across the country. Together we must invest in our communities’ creativity to become stronger as PoC, Indigenous and Queer people in our society.

Moving the focus away from a literacy base and toward a storytelling base is a step toward insuring that our #ownvoices and creative power will rise and continue. I believe this is an important next step.

It doesn’t just begin with our kids. It begins with each of us and our #ownvoices. It begins now.

We need your voice. Our children need your voice.

Join the powerful tradition of storytelling to improve our world and the lives of our children.  Let your creative power rise! Make children’s books a radical act!

Read more about School of the Free Mind or to join our classroom.


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