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A film with a clear political agenda against teacher unions

We went to see ‘Won’t Back Down’ with Maggie Gyllenhall and Viola Davis, a film that ignores many facts of a complicated issue that causes students to turn out illiterate and schools to be considered failures.

Soon after the movie started, I complained. “If her (Jamie played by Ms. Gyllenhall) daughter has trouble reading, why doesn’t she turn off the TV and teach her at home as my mother did?”

My wife had to shut me up before someone complained to the management and had me tossed out of the theater. Censured and mute, I still wanted to rant and rave, and I did let loose after we left the theater.

You see, when I was seven (in the early 1950s), my mother was told I was retarded and would never learn to read or write.  Back then, educators did not know about dyslexia. According to those experts, I was doomed to be illiterate for life.

However, I was not destined to turn out the same as my older brother. He died a broken and illiterate man at age 64 in December 1999. By the time I was seven and my brother twenty-one, my mother had learned her lesson because she watched and agonized over my brother’s decline. At age twenty-one, Richard had already spent time in prison. When he died, fifteen of his sixty-four years was spent locked up behind bars after spending too much time drinking in bars.

How did my working mom make a difference in my life?  Answer: at home with primer books a caring teacher had recommended and eventually a coat hanger.  The coat hanger appeared after I refused to cooperate. After all, it was hard work, it was boring, and I hated every moment of it, but my mother would not take NO for an answer. She had already lost one son to the dead-end life of illiteracy and was determined not to lose me to the same fate.

With my mother armed with that coat hanger, I learned to read. Today, my mother probably would have been charged with child abuse, and I would have been sent to a foster home and turned out illiterate. I do not resent my mother. I thank her for making an effort most parents today do not make.

To make a long story short, I learned to love reading books. By the time I graduated from high school, I was reading at college level above most of my classmates. Over the years, I earned an AS degree, BA, MFA and a life teaching credential.

‘Won’t Back Down’ is an anti-teacher union film pretending to care about the education of disadvantaged children.


Richard Roeper’s Reviews agrees with A. O Scott of the New York Times

When my wife and I returned home from the theater, I wanted to see what the New York Times had to say about the film and was not disappointed to see that A. O. Scott had revealed the movie’s biased propaganda.

Scott said “that (the films) pious expression of concern for the children are usually evidence of a political agenda in overdrive … and this one is not shy about showing its ideological hand.”

Scott says, the film “makes the vague claim to have been ‘inspired by true events,’ pits a plucky, passionate band of parents and educators against a venal and intransigent cabal of labor bosses and their greedy, complacent rank-and-file minions.”

The promise the film makes, says Scott is that “Once teachers give up job security and guaranteed benefits, learning disabilities will be cured, pencils will stop breaking and the gray skies of Pittsburgh will glow with sunshine. Who could be against that?”

Scott ends with, “however you take its politics, the film upholds a dreary tradition of simplifying and sentimentalizing matters of serious social concern, and dummying down issues that call for clarity and creative thinking. Our children deserve better.”

I want add to Scott’s last sentence. “Our teachers deserve better too.”

I know what it is like to be dyslexic. I’ve lived with it all my life. I also know what teachers go through, because I taught for thirty years (1975 – 2005) in California’s public schools. My average work week ran 60 to 100 hours. I often arrived at school as early as 6:00 in the morning when the gates were unlocked and sometimes worked as late as 11:00 at night when the alarms were turned on and the gates locked.

In the film, it seems the so-called evil teachers’ union limits the amount of time a teacher may stay after school to help students or meet with parents. The teachers’ union I belonged to never did anything like that. There are more than 14,000 school districts in the US and most have a contract with a teacher union so I cannot say that it isn’t that way in Philadelphia’s schools. It’s just that in my experience, I never heard of it.

In addition, at one point in my teaching career, I was in danger of being fired due to a censorship issue when I was the journalism advisor for the high school newspaper. Without the union, I’m convinced that I would have been fired for defending what my students wrote and published in one issue of the school paper.

Near the end of the film, Jamie, who works two jobs (one in a car dealership and the other as a bartender) to make ends meet, reveals that she is dyslexic and didn’t want her third-grade daughter, who is also dyslexic, to be left behind too.

There is a big difference between actresses playing the roles of a dyslexic mother and daughter and someone that is really dyslexic.  For me, my mother made the difference. The schools did not teach me to read at a time when there were no unions in the California public schools that I attended.

In the film, why didn’t the character Ms. Gyllenhall plays help her daughter improve her reading skills at home? In fact, why are so many parents in America avoiding this responsibility? In Finland, a country with one of the most successful public school districts in the world with a very strong teachers’ union, parents start teaching their children to read at about age 3 at home, four years before starting school at age 7. The teachers in Finland have also been given a lot of responsibility regarding how those schools operate and they do it with parent support.

Instead, when we are in Jamie’s apartment in Pittsburgh, the TV is on and no books are in the child’s hands. When I was a child, my parents always had books around and read every night and that, along with my mother and that stinging coat hanger, made all the difference.

The truth is that NO teacher could have used that coat hanger on me as motivation to learn to read—then or now. In addition, my mother only had one child to teach at home while my teachers had classrooms full of children to teach. When I was still teaching, I often had 175 – 200 students in five, one-hour classes.

As A. O Scott wrote for the New York Times, it is a ‘complicated issue’.

However, I spend a lot of time attempting to explain those issues on this Blog. It’s too bad that studies and surveys reveal the painful truth that 80% of Americans after leaving or graduating from high school never read a book again—even to and/or with their children.

Those same parents will probably never read a Blog post this long, and I am sure of this—they will be very quick to blame teachers for children that grow up with no love of reading.

Discover It’s the Parents, Stupid

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

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The Conservative Talk-Show Scapegoat for the Self-Esteem Movement – Part 1/4

Now, I am no fan of the self-esteem parenting movement in America. If you read this Blog on a regular basis, you would know that I feel strongly that “IT” is the main culprit for the state of our public schools.

All one need do is read The Self-Esteem Train Wreck,  Recognizing Good Parenting,  Graffiti Nation,  Avoid the Mainstream Parent Trap,  What, Me Worry about Debt – I’ve got Self-Esteem on my side, and The Finland-Singapore Solution to Public Education in the US to discover my opinion on this issue.

However, if you were standing at the base of a snow-covered mountain in a growing blizzard and a snowball was rolling downhill toward you collecting snow, growing in mass and speed and you cheered and waved it on encouraging it to grow stronger and move faster, would you be responsible for the forces that started that snowball rolling from the top of that mountain more than a hundred years earlier?

I don’t think so, but this is exactly what conservative talk-show host Dennis Prager has done with the self-esteem movement. He has blamed “IT” all on former California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos.

While I agree with Prager in principal that the self-esteem movement is a travesty to our American culture, I cannot condone Prager turning this cultural cancer into a political issue by blaming a so-called leftist, liberal, progressive Democrat for something that he did not start.

Without telling his adoring fans (Prager’s Parrots) the history of the movement, in November 2010, Dennis wrote, “The movement was begun (he is talking about the self-esteem movement) by California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos. As The New York Times reported, “Mr. Vasconcellos, a 53-year-old Democrat, is described by an aide as ‘the most radical humanist in the Legislature.'”

In an interview at the time (1986), Vasconcellos told Prager he had personally benefited from therapy. It enabled him to improve the poor self-esteem he had inherited from his childhood. He therefore concluded that improving other people’s self-esteem would greatly help society.

And this was all it took for Prager to claim the self-esteem movement in America started with John Vasconcellos, whose only crime was being a Democrat as you will discover.

Continued on October 17, 2011 in The Conservative Talk-Show Scapegoat for the Self-Esteem Movement – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column, click it and then follow directions.

 

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Due Process – Part 1/4

If you Google “the number of teachers that are incompetent“, you will discover there are more than 4 million hits on this topic but none that I checked among the first ten pages of hits offered an answer—basically what I discovered was a lot of ranting, rumor and “bull”.

In other words, a manufactured controversy with a hidden political/religious agenda behind it.

One site, having no evidence to support how many incompetent teachers there are went as far as to say “Schools Nationwide hide Teacher Misconduct and Incompetence.” Then offers no cited evidence that substantiated this claim.

“When someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that’s required,” says presidential candidate Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, during the Republican press debate held at the Reagan Library early in September 2011.

What Governor Perry says is true. The legal process he mentions is what protects the citizens of the United States when accused of a crime or if one is slandered.

In fact, recently Wal-Mart was found innocent of discrimination against women and that case went to the Supreme Court where the class-action suit against Wal-Mart seeking billions of dollars on behalf of as many as 1.5 million female workers was dismissed. Source: New York Times

Why shouldn’t teachers be allowed to have the same due process of law?

As is, teachers may be tried for the same crime twice.  This means, if a state or federal judge finds a teacher innocent of a crime she has been accused of, she may be tried again for the same crime by the teacher-credentialing board and if found guilty lose the credential to teach in that state.

From what I’ve heard, teachers are the only profession that may be punished for the same crime twice even after being found innocent the first time, which means teachers have already been denied due process once.

When critics of teachers unions accuse those unions of protecting incompetent teachers, those critics are saying that teachers are not eligible for the same protection under the law.

If a school district wants to fire a teacher that has been accused of being incompetent, that teacher should have his or her day in court to prove she is innocent of the accusation.  When teachers belong to unions, legal protection is one of the benefits.

Continued on September 19, 2011 in Due Process – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Eager to Learn or Not – Part 1/10

I woke up recently to read about “Cheating Investigation Focuses on Atlanta Schools”.  Then later in the morning, my wife and I walked to town to see Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks and Julie Roberts, which was a movie my wife and I enjoyed.

Since Larry Crowne also dealt with the value of earning an education to become more competitive in the workplace, it fits the goal of this Blog so I felt it was worth mentioning.

Last week, I read the review of Larry Crowne in The New York Times, which was extremely negative. Knowing how biased and wrong the New York Times critics often are, I was convinced the movie was worth seeing, which brings me back to the subject of this post.

After returning from viewing Larry Crowne, I searched the internet for a reliable source on the Atlanta schools cheating scandal and discovered a story on NPR.org dated October 12, 2010.

You may not believe this, but studies of bias in the media have demonstrated that NPR offers the most balanced news possible, which may explain why conservative Republicans want to cut federal funding from public radio. After all, well-balanced news is not the goal of conservatives.

When I saw the date of the NPR piece, I realized this was old news, so why was it being treated as if it were new again?

Continued on July 11, 2011 in Eager to Learn or Not – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 

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Risking the Mental and Physical Health of Your Children – Part 3/3

What are the results when we compare the permissive self-esteem driven Western parenting style and that of the Chinese and/or Asia parenting style?

First, a look at the average differences between parents in the US and China/Asia.

“Unlike in the West where children are encouraged to experiment and develop their own individual talents (as the Self-esteem movement and the Montessori methods preach), Chinese parents believe the child is an extension of oneself. Chinese parents believe they know what is best for their children and therefore override the child’s preferences.… Westerners believe in allowing children a large measure of freedom to choose their own paths while the Chinese parent makes choices for her children.” Source: China Daily


Different Cultures lead to Different Results

In fact, Nicholas D. Kristof, writing for the New York Times, says, “Perhaps as a legacy of Confucianism, its (China’s) citizens have shown a passion for education and self-improvement — along with remarkable capacity for discipline and hard work, what the Chinese call “chi ku,” or “eating bitterness”.

If you doubt these results, the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health reported that Chinese have the lowest ATOD (alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use) rates in the United States.

Then the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 2008 said that Asian-Americans had the lowest prevalence of serious mental illnesses by race, while Caucasians had a much higher risk, which was higher than Latinos, African-Americans, and American Indian/Alaska Natives.

Return to Risking the Mental and Physical Health of Your Children – Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2011 in family values

 

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What is the Matter with Parents these Days? – Viewed as Single Page

More than twenty years ago, I attended a lecture at one of the Claremont Colleges. I do not recall the speaker’s name but he was a successful journalist that wrote for major publications such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

He had published a memoir of raising his normal, above average daughter and a younger son with an IQ of eighty. The lecture was about how his wife and he raised the son to graduate with honors from high school and be accepted to Harvard where he earned a degree in engineering.

I wish I could remember this journalist’s name and the title of his memoir, but it has been too long. However, I have not forgotten his story. If anyone reading this post knows the title of the memoir, please tell me in a comment.

When this journalist’s son was old enough to start school at age six, the parents agonized over how to raise him so he could live a normal life and compete for jobs in the marketplace as an adult.

Job hunting and earning a living is not without its challenges and competition (on July 6, 2012, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 12.7 million Americans were unemployed, while the number of Americans living in poverty was more than 47 million and many go hungry daily).

For the journalist’s family, to achieve their goals as responsible parents, it was decided to retire the family television to the garage and read books every night with a family hour before bedtime to discuss what each family member read.

Twelve years later, the son with the eighty IQ earned a perfect score on the SAT and the high school principal claimed he had to have cheated. The father argued that his son had not cheated, so the school made the son take the SAT again in a room without any other students, and he was monitored by three staff members. The son earned a second perfect SAT score. Soon after that, the son was accepted to Harvard

This brings me to a post I read at clotildajamcracker (a Blog) called What’s the Matter with Kids these Days?

The post is worth reading—specially the comments. However, the problem is not kids—it’s parents.

In fact, I read one comment from the Headless Coffee Guy that said, “Hey, I hope my daughter will grow up to be a super genius who will find the unified theory in physics, solve world hunger, save the whales, and write her first symphony at 4. … But alas, I think ultimately, it’s really not up to the parent to decide what their child wants to be. We can only nurture and suggest, but it’s really up to the child to make up their own minds. All I really want for my daughter is to be happy.”

Is there anything wrong with Headless Coffee Guy’s concept of parenting as expressed in that previous quote?

When I read, “All I really want for my daughter is to be happy“—that was, in my opinion, a possible excuse to shirk responsibility.

There so much more to parenting than a parent wanting his or her child to only be happy.

What does happiness mean? I’m sure that most everyone would have a different answer. I have several answers depending on the circumstances. I’m happy when my monthly CalSTRS retirement payment is deposited in my bank account, watch a good movie, read a good book, eat a tasty meal, finish daily exercising, have no pain and especially when my wife is happy since that makes life better for me.

However, many today seem to think “happy” means you have to avoid being bored even if that includes not doing homework, classwork, reading or drinking water.


“Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups (ages 2-19 years).”
Source:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.org

You might say, “What, drinking water?” Dr. Michael Dedekian, a pediatric endocrinologist at Maine Medical Center, says, “I have children who come to me, and they are being absolutely honest when they say, ‘I can’t drink water. It tastes disgusting to me.’ (They say) that water has become unpalatable.” Source: Minnesota Public Radio.org

Why?

The answer comes from Track Mom.com, who said, “Surveys have found that parents are major role models for their kids’ eating habits, even more so than their peers. … Almost one-third of the children surveyed drank soft drinks daily, and most drank ‘regular,’ not ‘diet,’ drinks. … Virtually all of the respondents liked or ‘strongly liked’ the taste of soft drinks.”

Like most parents, my wife and me wanted our daughter to be happy too. However, we felt it was more important that she be happier as an adult than a child and that meant making sacrifices.

Yes, my wife and me felt it was more important that our daughter be happier as an adult than during her childhood, which is why we left the TV off, no video games, no social networking (at least until her second year in high school), limited the number of school dances she attended, no mobile phone for personal use and focused on her reading books, doing homework, learning ballet, piano, how to change a flat tire, install a toilet, change a lock, install drywall, tile a floor, etc.

And last but not least, we never bought or drank any brand of soda. There was water and then there was water (sometimes there was fruit juice such as apple or orange juice).

Needless to say, many of our daughter’s peers in middle and high school felt sorry for her, because she wasn’t having as much fun as they were. However, our daughter graduated from high school with a 4.65 GPA and was accepted to Stanford University (the only student from her high school that year) where she is starting her third year majoring in biology with goals to pursue a medical degree.

Contrary to popular opinion, she’s happy and loves to dance and play the piano and enjoys reading books. She has a boyfriend at Stanford she loves too and the two share many similar interests. She might want to be happy every waking moment and have loads of fun but she learned as a child that there is a difference between work, happiness, entertainment, bring bored and depression.

To achieve a better chance at adult happiness, her mother and me had to say no to many things leading to boring hours doing homework and studying in addition to reading books to fill the empty hours.

After all, according to the law in California (it varies by state ranging from age 14 to 18), one is a child until his or her eighteenth birthday. Then the child becomes an adult with a life expectancy of at least 84.9 years (on average) if he or she has a college education and earns an above average income. You see, education and income has a significant impact on health and a higher life expectancy and the average college graduate earns much more than a high-school dropout or high-school graduate.

Science Daily reported, “New findings from Harvard Medical School and Harvard University demonstrate that individuals with more than 12 years of education have significantly longer life expectancy than those who never went beyond high school. … Overall in the groups studied, as of 2000, better educated at age 25 could expect to live to age 82; for less educated, 75.”

In addition, The Economic Policy Institute discovered “While life expectancy has grown across the United States between 1980 and 2000, the degree to which people live longer has become increasingly connected to their socio-economic status.” The average life expectancy of the least well-off in 2000 was 74.7 years while it was 79.2 years for those that were most well off—meaning they had more money and usually a better education.

However, if left up to most children in the average family that does not live in poverty, happiness means not exercising, eating lots of sugary foods swallowed with gallons of sugary sodas, watching TV, listening to music, social networking, playing video games, hanging out with friends after school and on weekends, sending daily text messages by the dozens—and according to surveys and studies that is what the average child in America is doing ten hours a day.

Where are the parents?

Then there is this thing about parents blindly encouraging kids to follow their dreams without a realistic backup plan.

Kids are immature, lack knowledge and a sense of reality—at least those American children that are sheltered from the harsh realities of life and competition.

Therefore, many childish dreams are totally unrealistic, such as becoming President of the United States. My wife and me know a family where the oldest son, now a graduate student at Stanford University, dreams of becoming the governor of California one day, yet he hasn’t joined a political party yet.

Anyway, for children dreaming of becoming president of the United States, the odds are almost impossible. After all, there is only one position for that job and since April 30, 1789, when George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States, there have only been forty-four presidents counting President Obama.

Then there is the requirement that one be at least 35 years of age to qualify. With 310 million Americans and two major political parties, competing to become the president of the United States is a long shot with a tough road to follow.

How about professional sports (another popular dream job)? Over the years, while I was still teaching, many of my high school students, mostly boys, told me that it was a waste of time for them to study because they were going to be pro athletes and did not need an education.

However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are only 16,500 jobs in competitive sports and the median pay is $43,740. Most professional athletes do not earn tens of millions of dollars. Only a few earn that kind of money, but those few are all we hear about in the media. From 2010 – 2020, only 3,600 new positions will open up in pro sports or 360 a year (on average). The competition to land one of these positions in pro sports is fierce but not as fierce as president of the US.

How many plumbers are there in the United States? According to the BLS, in 2010, there were 419,000 plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters working in the US with medium annual pay of $46,660 per year. Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases to and in businesses, homes, and factories.

Using the BLS Website, we may quickly discover that the number of jobs held by accountants in 2010 was 1,216,900 and there would be 190,700 new jobs coming available between 2010-20 or about 19,000 a year, while the average medium pay for actors (another popular dream job) is $17.44 per hour with new openings numbering 260 per year (on average)—a ratio of 73 accountants to each actor.

I read once that about 40,000 aspiring actors flood into Hollywood each year to compete for those 260 potential positions that pay $17.44 per hour (on average).

Another popular dream job, mostly for girls, is to become a fashion model. According to the BLS, the annual medium pay in 2010 was $32,920 with about 200 openings per year (on average). On the other hand , median pay for barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists (beauticians) is $22,500 per year and there are 10,000 new positions opening annually (on average)—a ratio of 50 barbers or hairdressers for each fashion model.

My son, who is currently in his thirties, refused to have a backup plan. Last I heard he was a waiter/bartender. The median pay for waiters/bartenders is $18,130/18,680 annually. He wanted to be an actor/singer.

I was a public school teacher for thirty years and the median pay in 2010 was $53,230. In 2004-2005, my last year in the classroom, I earned more than $80,000. There are 3,380,000 teachers working in the US public schools. Teaching was my back up plan. My dream was to become an author and there are about 145,900 working writers and authors in the United States and the median pay in 2010 was $55,420—a ratio of 23 teachers for each writer/author.

The odds favored teaching.

Just because you can dream, that does not guarantee that the dream will come true. I never gave up on my dream and after I retired from teaching in 2005, my dream became reality in 2008 with the first of three novels of “The Concubine Saga”. My dream was born in 1968 and became reality in 2008—it took forty years.

I’m glad I had a backup plan.

However, I can still hear the average American parent telling his or her child how proud they are that he or she is going to be president of the United States or a famous pro athlete, or actor, or fashion model one day, and then the TV is turned on to watch a popular reality show such as American Idol where the odds of winning are sixty-thousand to one but no one tells us that.

Discover Brainwashing American Style or Avoid the Mainstream Parenting Trap

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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