‘Snapshot’ (A Guest-Poem)

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The poem is a little special to me, you see, because, after years of writing, I wrote about how things are in my country, how reality has nothing to do but to lie there with glazed eyes, because everyone is waiting, and just waiting some more, for a change. It’s like walking through honey, and change is bitter and hard work; most people here simply curse it. The few who risk a try get trapped in this spider web of lethargy. Time stills. No one moves. Everything stays the same and hypocrisy prevails. 

These words are a perfect introduction to a stunning poem that I am about to share with you all. The author is Flaw Rainlight  Here is how she describes herself:

Hey there! I’m Flaw Rainlight and often write under the name of T. E. Pyrus. I live in the company of five wonderful cats and writing is a passion. I also learn and love classical dance and music. 

When I first tried my hand at writing, I was about six years old, exploring Dr. Seuss and R. L. Stevenson. That was probably soon after realized my love and awe of books, the way they preserve dreams and lives of people, real and imaginary, for decades and centuries. 

I remember thinking at one point, when I was bothered by the lack of fun things to read on a short vacation with my parents, that if I couldn’t find things to read, why couldn’t try writing them? 

And thus, my imagination, fueled first by boredom, and later by curiosity, passion and a desire to challenge myself further, spilled into little rhymes and incomplete stories. (I’m still mortified that my mother keeps a firm hold on those notebook pages of childish rambling.)

Eventually, encouraged and supported lovingly by friends, family and absolute strangers, I decided to bring my work out into this scary outside world. I began to explore spoken word and set up this blog as a medium to reach out to people like you, who care about writing, and write about caring. After all, thinkers and writers unfurl from the burning fire within to love the world and everything in it, and to witness its evolution that many simply walk past without another glance.

Wow. She certainly I’d talented. Here is her wonderfully deep and meaningful piece:
SNAPSHOT’
 Curiosity stares through tinted glasses
at railway tracks that glint darker in the sun;
the house crow that pecks on the ties in between
looks only slightly greyer than its shadow.
The diesel smoke and incense mist
lie faintly over red painted benches
that infrequently decorate the station platform.
Glass doored cabinets in miniature stalls
hold jars of hard candy, myriad pan filling
and sugared tamarind sweets to charm the mouth,
brightly coloured foil packets of biscuits and sweetened milk cake
lie sulking on the icebox, liberally filled
with ice cream and badam milk, mishti doi and lassi,
chilled soda in orange, brown, and green,
sealed bottles of water for people to please.
People and more people with stranger clothes and faces
scurry and stumble, then scramble and hurry
up the overbridge and down to platform number four
with sari and suitcase, toddler with a missing shoe.
Cartons of fresh iced fish to be sold a thousand miles away
settle comfortably on the floor of the parcel compartment,
painted blue, like all the thirty and one passenger coaches
tailing the rusty red engine that punctuates the chaos
with sleepy sighs and anxious whistles.
Footsteps and wheels run briskly here,
yet time runs ever slowly still
in rhythm with the ceaseless chant –
“cha~i coffee! co~ffee chai! cha~i coffee!…”

Butterflies…

‘Butterflies in your stomach. Butterflies in your stomach.’ It’s such a cliche but it takes experiencing it to understand how true it really is. I take deep breaths and stare down at the salted caramel cookies my Dad bought especially for today. I realise that this is actually happening.

The gentle rocking of the boat isn’t making me feel any better, I keep glancing up the towpath, nervously watching, waiting. I expect to see them any minute. I don’t really know what they look like. All I know, (well, all you’re allowed to know) is that I am being filmed for a casting development project for a mainstream TV channel. A London production company is coming to film me and my life.

This has all happened so fast and, although I’m nervous, I feel an elated anticipation. Suddenly they’re here, carrying a huge camera and looking professional. This is it, Gracie…..this is it……

It all goes so amazingly, I enjoy every minute. Every minute spent giving my opinions on big modern life issues, being interviewed on challenging topics like politics, feminism, social media, materialism, relationships and social care. Every minute talking about my life and the things I’m passionate about, reading poetry and stories in a voice that seems more powerful now there’s someone here especially to hear it. Every minute spent being absolutely myself.

It was intense and my brain whirrs just thinking about it now. But I was in my element, I like a challenge. I like people who value the perspectives of young people on modern society. I loved thinking about the questions and carefully wording my replies. I didn’t find it easy, but I had the opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it.

All in all, I may be accepted to participate in this programme or I may not. I would love to be able to share my thoughts on life even further, but if not, I am just eternally grateful for this experience and I’m proud of myself for making it happen and getting this far.

Please leave me a message in the comments box below, I absolutely love to hear from you all. Thanks! 

Destination Coope Farm

Hello Everyone! People of the world!

As some of you may know, me and my family are on a journey in Mo, our 1968 Morris Traveller camper van. We are pioneers in a way, venturing out into the world to try and live life differently.

I have always had this dream of being somewhere where everyone lives together, working towards creating a better world and doing their bests to help others. Someplace where strong and committed relationships and friendships are forged and tested. Where me and my family can flourish and extend a hand to those who are struggling. Where people will care about us when we struggle.

So I saw going away in Mo as the perfect opportunity to start searching, to begin the journey of finding the right place, learning and experiencing along the way. So, months previous to our actual departure, I started doing my research.

One of the places I found was Coope Farm, a small holding down in deepest Devon run by a family with hopes that they can make a difference.

It’s best to let them explain more:

A Coope Farm Quote:

We believe that the sustainable lifestyle is much more than just about trying to reverse the harm that mankind has wrought upon the planet.
For us it is a decision to turn away from many of the things that we find unpalatable about our modern society.It is a conscious decision to act out the idea that wealth is about much more than money.
For us wealth is the ability to enjoy as much of each day as we can, which demands that we find time to smell the roses – to chill. It is about turning our back on a culture that celebrates celebrity over the vital spark of individuality and teaches, through advertising, that a persons worth is measured by his possessions. It is the belief that more money does not get us off the treadmill, but more often than not, just makes us go faster and faster.
Currently, in the UK, 1 in 5 people are suffering from depression. As a nation we are lonely, stressed, unfit and bored.
We, at Coope, want our lifestyle to give meaning to tasks, to people and to the moment.
We will, of course, fail to achieve such lofty goals, but we will live well in the process. And hopefully meet others along the way​!

My whole family agreed that we would really like to find out more and perhaps visit at some point. I resolved to email straight away.

I did and so Destination Coope Farm was formed. The plan was simple, head West in Mo until we got there, we left it pretty flexible, you know what travelling in ancient vehicles is like! It only took us three weeks.

Being here has already been amazing and we’ve only really just arrived. There are people to have both meaningful and fun conversations with, a common purpose to each day, hard work to do, delicious homemade food to share, laughter to ring out, animals to feed and muck out, friends to make.

Living like this is my absolute dream, but it isn’t easy or simple. Everything comes at a cost and the biggest cost is committment. At the moment, my family has big decisions to make, regarding the next chapter of all of our lives.

I have always had big ideas and big ambitions and sometimes it’s difficult for me to acknowledge that they may not always walk hand in hand with reality. I’m being honest when I say that one of my greatest struggles is accepting that life can’t always be how I want it to be, that problems exist and that things are complex and ugly and hard to achieve.

I want so much to change the world and I cling on to any opportunity that arises, but the people I love try to tell me that I can’t make things happen to fast. Life isn’t that straight forward, sometimes I have to go with the flow. It affects me and I have to stop it becoming a negative thing.

Recently I have been reading a book called Out Of Bounds, it is a collection of fictitious stories about the experiences of young people during the period of apartheid in South Africa. One of the pieces details a grandmother who’s granddaughter is sixteen and a freedom fighter who risks her life every day to do what is right.

The old woman can never understand why her granddaughter fights so hard and tries to force things to change. Then one day, when the child is in trouble, the woman sacrifices herself so that the girl can be free and keep fighting. It is incredibly moving and powerful and I learnt a lot from reading it.

My Dad says I will always struggle, it is part of my character, I know he’s right. It is my strength and my weakness, it’s where I thrive and where I fall.  Although I will keep on fighting for my dreams, I must learn to control it.

Being at Coope Farm is great for me, I made it happen and I am here now enjoying it. Even though I am just thirteen years old and I can’t possibly change the world, I can jolly well do my best to try!

See ya later,

Gracie

P.S If anyone’s interested in reading more about Coope Farm, please click this link: http://www.coopefarmdevon.co.uk

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award: Filled With Light

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When someone says The Sunshine Blogger Award, what words spring to mind? For me it’s Light. Hope. Happiness. Laughter. Fun. I want this blog to be filled with all of those things and I hope that I already create a sense of some of them here on A Light In The Darkness.

So I want to begin by saying a big thank you to the wonderful May for nominating me for this award and giving me the opportunity to share with you one of my passions besides writing and trying to change the world: Books!

So let’s start with the rules:

  • Thank the person/persons that nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions your nominator has given you.
  • Nominate 11 other people and give them 11 new questions to answer.
  • List the rules and display the award.

If you could be an author, who would you be?

Probably Sita Brahmachari, not only does she pen the most incredible books about subjects like grief, war, bullying, friendship, poverty and love, she is also a full-time campaigner for Amnesty International, a human rights organisation. She works with refugees and allows them how to express themselves through writing. She blogs at this blog here. She is an extremely down-to-earth and inspirational person and I’d love to be like her. To read my book review of three of Sita’s books, click here.

If I could be another author, it would be Michael Morpurgo, he writes with such strong feeling and emotion about real things that happen in the world. He is a master storyteller and he really wants to make a difference. The way he gets inspiration for his books is amazing, it’s all through experiences he has and chance conversations with random people. He inspires me a lot.

What book(s) do you wish you wrote?

Moon Bear by Gill Lewis, the story line is so complex and touching. A girl sacrifices her life for the sake of doing the right thing. The author creates beautiful characters that you feel so connected with. The dialog is convincing and realistic (something I struggle with when writing my own novels). Her art of describing is also incredible. I highly recommend it.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdshall. The main reason I wish I wrote this book is the way the author is so clever with the characters. It is a sort of modern version of Little Women, following the crazy lives of four sisters, but Jeanne makes it totally her own. She manages to keep up the unique personalities of each sister throughout the whole series.

Here are each of their profiles, starting with the oldest, I thought you might find it fun to read:

Rosalind: The responsible and sensible, kind and caring eldest sister. She is practical and loves to bake, but can sometimes be taken to romantic notions! She is looked up to by all her younger siblings. 

Sky: Stubborn, smart and out-spoken Sky is the second Penderwick sister. She wants to be an astrophysicist when she grows up and believes in science and fact. She finds her sisters extremely annoying, but is never afraid to be brave and stand up for them in an emergency. 

Jane: Jane is the crazy, dreamy third sister who spends each and every moment of her day with her head stuck in one of her books. She hopes to become an author one day and practices writing poetry and stories all the time. She has a habit of using long words.

Batty: Her name is short for Elizabeth, she’s named after her late Mother. She is quiet and sensitive and loves to try and help others. She also seems to understand animals in a way none of her sisters can. 

How fast of a reader are you?

Um, very very fast. I literally DEVOUR books! I read the average book in two days.

Which book character would you totally want to meet, but fear might kill you?

The fearsome Nancy Blackett from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. She is my absolute idol. I have walked around in a red bobble hat and black cowboy boots since I first read the book aged about seven. I want to meet her and be her so much!  She is a young female pirate, who resides over Lake Coniston in The Lake district, UK.  She’s captain of a boat called Amazon whom she sails with her sister, Peggy. They live off grog (ginger beer) and great hunks of fruitcake.  It’s just good old-fashioned adventure and some of it is actually quite exciting.

What books have you cried over (if any)?

The Child’s Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston. It is quite a serious book about child soldiers in Rwanda and it really shocked me. I had no idea that this sort of thing went on in the world and I found it deeply moving. To read my book review that I wrote two years ago click here.

What do you do besides reading?

Well, obviously writing. And blogging. I really enjoy to swim too. I am a total water baby and rejoice in the freedom that being in the water grants me. Out of the pool, I am not agile at all, so it’s liberating for me. I also love baking and creating new recipes to share with my family and friends. I am learning about foraging, wild food and herbal medicine too, I find that so interesting. My other hobbies include skiing, sailing and hanging out with friends.

How would you react if all the books suddenly disappeared from the world?

I cannot possibly imagine that and I’d rather not, if you don’t mind. Ha ha!

Book-to-movie adaptations: Like or hate?

It depends. I guess some are great and others aren’t. I don’t like it when they change the story too much,

What book have you been dying to read, but haven’t gotten the chance to?

One by Sarah Crossan. It’s about conjoined twins who’ve been home educated all their lives and then go to school. I find the concept of being physically joined to your twin incredible and being home schooled myself, I am curious as to how the author writes about their experiences. It’s also written in poetry form, which I feel would enhance the story.

Would you rather get paid to read books, review books, or blog about books?

The first one and the last one. But, if I had to choose, I would say ‘get paid to read books’ as I’m not the hugest fan of writing book reviews and I could still blog about other things.

WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT ONE OF YOU FAVORITE AUTHORS IS STANDING ACROSS THE STREET FROM YOU WHAT DO YOU DO???

I’M GOING TO WRITE THIS IN CAPS TOO ‘CAUSE IT’S SO EXCITING!!! Okay, I’ll stop now. I would tell myself that now is no time to be shy and that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Then I would walk across the street and say “Excuse me, can I take a picture with you?” If they said yes, which they would because I only like kind authors, I would be posting it on this blog as soon as I had an internet connection! I would ask them a few questions about writing and then thank them profusely before happily skipping away.

Now for my nominees:

Grace: From The Tip Of Grace’s Pen

Aqsa: Aqsa Says What

MintieFreshie

Elsie L.M.C

Thoughts In Life

RubixCube: Singing To The Sea

Tiana: The Book Raven

Rainbow Girl: Born To Be Me

Loren: Blue Eyes, Grey Eyes

Emma: Book Emma

https://itssimplyme3.wordpress.com/

If I’ve nominated you and you’d rather not do this award, that’s fine! I totally understand. If I haven’t nominated you, please don’t be offended, instead feel free to take part.

My Questions:

What words do you live your life by?

How do you think that you personally can change the world?

What do the words ‘A Light In The Darkness’ mean to you? (How do you interpret them?)

What do you want more than anything else in the world?

Who do you aspire to be like?

What is the story behind your blog name?

What book left you speechless?

Describe one memory that you would never want to lose?

What song could you sing for eternity?

Which blogger in the blogosphere can you relate to the most?

What in life challenges you the most?

Okay, enjoy and let me know how you get on!

Bye for now,

Gracie

 

The Book Of Our Lives

Wake up, Gracie!  
This isn’t a novel you’re reading, 
A book you can tear yourself away from whenever you feel like it. 
This is your life, your story. 
You decide the ending, you are not a spectator. 
You’re the main character.  
 
It’s down to you to decide what happens. 
You can change your fate. 
Come on, it’s still a draft. 
This story hasn’t been published yet. 
 
You write the storyline, 
Who plays what part? 
Is there a mystery? 
A twist in the plot? 
 
Is it a tragedy or a fairytale with a happy ending? 
That’s in your hands. 
You are the author of your own life. 
 
THE END 
 
 
Hi Everyone! 
 
We are all the writers of our own story, we can edit it and choose the words we use. Suddenly 
we are not reading someone else’s life journey, we are penning our own. 
 
We battle on through disaster and good times, struggles and joy. Through the predictable and 
the unexpected, the happy and the sad. Each event affects and shapes the future of the story 
and your, and my, book of life. 
 
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Gracie  🙂 🙂 🙂
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Sunrise In The Middle East

I wrote this story about girl’s rights in the Middle East. Hope you enjoy, but any constructive criticism is welcome! I have entered this short story into the Wicked Young Writer’s Awards so wish me luck!

Sunrise In The Middle East

“Greetings People. It’s me, Sunrise, and I’m back with the latest progress on the Girl’s Rights In The Middle East front. As you know…..”

I pause to blow away some of the dust that’s trapped in the gaps between the letters on my keyboard. I smile as the tiny particles are momentarily suspended in a ray of sunlight that’s disturbing my writing session, in a good way. I cup my hands around it and watch them glow with golden light. It reminds me of myself.

“On the morning of your birth, the sun seemed larger than ever before.” my Mother’s sweet, quiet voice echoes in my ears. “ I saw it coming up on the horizon, huge and round and blood-red. It spread its life-giving light all over the earth and eventually it reached you. It seeped in through my window and into the shadowy room. Then it touched your head and you awoke. So I named you Sunrise and hoped you’d be full of life, laughter and most of all, light.”

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I sigh as I pull off a floral-printed headscarf and a cascade of knotty, tangled brown hair tumbles down my back. My amber streaked, hazel eyes that are usually full of humour and curiosity sparkle as my big flashing smile makes an appearance on my smooth olive-skinned face.

I sit back down to read my emails and idly click the first one that pops up.

Dear Sunrise

My name is Aaminah and I am 11 years old. I wanted to tell you how much you inspire me and how, because of you, I go to school and learn how to write beautifully, like you do. Thank you.

You are the Middle East’s best female activist, that is what we say at my school. All the girls are pleased that you spoke up for their education so I write to you on their behalf too.

You are very brave and you have said what our people have all been too scared to say.

Thank you again and may you be blessed.

Every time a child sends me an email like this is warms my heart so much that I click Reply immediately and begin to type.

Dearest Aaminah

I am so glad that you are able to go to school now, I am certain that one day you will be an amazing writer. It was not just me who helped you, there are many girls like myself campaigning for education. When you are a little older perhaps you will be one of them. Perhaps we will even meet one day. I would like that. Say hi to your classmates for me!

Keep safe and may you also be blessed.

Sunrise

I hover over the send button and press it down. I imagine her delight as she reads my message of hope and shows it to her friends. It makes this risky and sometimes dangerous role that I have taken on all worth it. With a contented smile on my playing at my lips, I prepare to read the next piece of mail.

Sunrise Abdullah

This is a warning. Stop your campaigning or you will suffer the consequences. What you are doing is forbidden. We will stop you because you are a disgrace to us all. How could you abandon our ancient ways for the ways of the West? Empowering women is wrong.

I sit back, my face shocked and expressionless, and stare at the screen. I take a deep breath and scroll down to see the sender. Nothing. Email address? Security protected. “Arrghhhh!” my mood changes to angry and confused.

How can people say that? How can they not see that all people should be equal? Education is a chance that all people should have. A chance to escape poverty and oppression. When you’re educated it makes it easier to change the world. And believe me, there are a lot of things that need changing. In my frenzy of mad and blind rage, I hit Reply once again.

To Whom It May Concern

You are wrong.  A rule might be ancient, but that doesn’t make it right. If you truly believe that empowering women is wrong then tell me why. Now. I demand an answer. Because I am, like you, passionate. I won’t give up without a fight. I don’t care for your threats and promises, I am a peace-maker and I make peace through education.

Sunrise Abdullah

Writer and Girl’s Rights Activist

 

 

#CookForSyria

I would like to introduce #CookForSyria.  This amazing idea was created by UNICEF ( an organisation that helps children in need all over the world ), Clerkenwell Boy ( an award-winning food instagrammer ), Serena Guen ( publisher, businesswoman and philanthropist )  and a few top chefs, as a way to fight the terrible humanitarian crisis in Syria.

#CookForSyria is a recipe book full of traditional and modern delicious Syrian, Middle Eastern food. Each recipe is donated by world-class chefs who want to make a difference! Any profits made on the sales of this incredible book are donated to aid the people of Syria affected by the tragic events.

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Food is about sharing and hospitality, we may only have a little for ourselves, but we will give some to you because we are all hungry. Food can form friendships and relationships and is an integral part of a community.  This book aims to capture that and bottle it, to use it to work towards peace.

I have already made four recipes out of his book and I’ve only had it a week and a half! They are so good! But the best one had to be this one:

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Syrian Onion and Parsley Meatballs on Spicy Cous Cous with Roasted Butternut Squash and a Tahini Yoghurt Sauce. 

It was seriously nice. Here’s the recipe for the meatballs, the sauce and the topping if you’d like to have a go:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 kg of minced beef

1 large onion

a bunch of parsley

1 butternut squash

For The Sauce

2 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp yoghurt

2 tbsp water

juice of one lemon

1 clove of garlic

For The Topping

Handful of pine nuts

Knob of butter

 

Method:

Cut the butternut squash into cubes, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil. Roast in the oven until tender. 

Very finely chop the onion and parsley. Put both in a bowl with the mince and season. Mix together with your hands. Form into meatballs the size of ping pong balls and roast in the oven at 180C/356F for 10 minutes. 

Mix the tahini, yoghurt, lemon, water and finely chopped garlic together with some salt until it forms a smooth, runny consistency. If too thick, add a little drop of water. 

Melt some butter in a pan and toast some pine nuts.  

Layer the meatballs and butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with the sauce and then the pine nut topping.

Serve hot with cous cous, flatbreads, pittas or salad and enjoy……….! 

I encourage you to buy this book, not only shall I tempt you with tales of pomegranate, spices, olives, pistachios, figs, bread, houmous and more, it is also working to change the world and to raise awareness of these people’s plight.

Let’s #CookForSyria to show we care!

 

Sita Brahmachari’s Beautiful Books

 

I love to write, and to use words to weave a web of stories that reveal facts about our world and about what we can do to change it, but I also love to read. I always have. One of my favourite authors is Sita Brahmachari. She writes about real issues and real life whilst still managing to capture a beautiful novel on the paper.

Two of her books are written in diary form, from the point of view of a young girl from London called Mira Levenson. The first, Artichoke Hearts, is about Mira’s Nana, who is an activist and an artist, but is dying of cancer. It is heart-wrenchingly sad, but messages of hope and love are riddled through it and they lift it up and make it one of the best books I’ve ever read. Sita, the author, also talks about bullying and also about Mira’s relationship with a boy in her class who survived the Rwandan Genocide. I learned so much and it really inspired me to try even harder to make a difference.

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The second is called Jasmine Skies and Mira is older in this book. She is of Indian heritage so she decides to fly half way across the world to discover the culture and customs of the country she knows so little about. She is not prepared for the huge amount of poverty, inequality and human rights abuses she will witness, working at her Aunt’s refuge for street kids she realises what she wants to do with her life. This is a quote from the book:

I’ve seen real poverty and homelessness in London, but it’s not on the same scale. When you see it in pictures you don’t appreciate how extreme the difference between rich and poor can be, though they’re living side by side. I feel a heaviness in my gut that I can’t seem to shake off. Every day here someone is tapping on my conscience and saying “Mira Levenson, this is not fair. What are you going to do about it?” and the truth is I don’t know.

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The last book that I have read is Red Leaves, which I was given for my thirteenth birthday just over a week ago. It is a really intriguing and amazing book. It opened my eyes to so much. Homelessness, war, refugees, divorce, religion, journalism, kids who live in care.
Aisha sought refuge in London from war-torn Somalia when she was ten, traumatised and unable to speak, she was alone in the world and missing her family. Now she’s twelve and she lives with her foster carer. She is starting to feel safe and loved again when her carer suggests that she is adopted by a Somalian family. She feels betrayed and runs away to a nearby wood.
Zak is angry and sad and confused. His parents are divorced, his brother won’t speak to him, his Mother is a journalist in conflict zones. When she goes missing, it’s the final straw. He becomes tangled up in a mess of the past and present. Somehow he stumbles into the wood were Aisha is sheltering.
Iona lives on the streets, with her dog. She’s rude and sarcastic and tough, but underneath she’s hurt. She lies about her age and won’t accept help, but she was the victim of a broken family. She too seeks safety and security in the woods.
Elder is seen as a dotty old homeless woman, a free spirit. But she has a story too. She’s not just crazy. She cares about the children and watches over them as they begin to form friendships, forgive and forget, learn about each other.
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I would recommend any of Sita’s books. Not only do they help you understand the world, they fill you with a desire to make it a better place.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these books or if you’d like to! Has there been a book that you’ve read that has really inspired you? If so, why?