KidLit Resource List – Books for trying times

In the aftermath of the inauguration, many members of the Minnesota children’s literature community gathered virtually on the MN Kidlit Facebook page.  Words matter.  No one knows this more than the dedicated souls who write and illustrate for youth.

We started compiling a list of resources: books about refugees and immigrants, reading activities that increase empathy, inclusive picture book suggestions.

Here is the list.  Read the books.  Read them to your neighbors, aunts/uncles, and kids.  Buy the books from your favorite indie bookstore and donate them to your local library or school.



Jane Addams Peace Award books (1953 – present) “The Jane Addams Children’s Book Award annually recognizes children’s books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.”:

Picture books for social justice, activists:

Picture books about Muslim or Middle Eastern characters:

Middle grade social justice novels:

South Asian and diverse children’s books:

Books that teach empathy:

Hope and Strength in stressful times – Wash Post:

The Brown Bookshelf: United in story

Feminist literature for young readers:

Refugee picture books:

Refugees and immigrants:

Empathy, kindness:


YA refugee books:

Activist biographies YA:

YA books about immigration:

Disability in KidLit:

Girl-empowering books:

Diversity in children’s literature:

Penny Candy Books (publisher):

Teaching Tolerance – a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center:

From the St Paul Public Library:

“All residents of Saint Paul may obtain a library card by presenting proof of address and a photo ID. We never have, and never will, inquire about citizenship or immigration/refugee status. Within our buildings, our resources and information are available to all, whether they have a library card or not.”

Books inspiring activism and tolerance:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, photos by Wing Young Huie

March (trilogy) by John Lewis (Author), Andrew Aydin (Author), Nate Powell (Artist)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I dissent by Debbie Levy

The Seeds of America Trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton

This Side of Home by Renee Watson

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

What Does It Mean To Be Kind? by Rana DiOrio

The Hunt (coming in 2/17) by Margaux Othats

A Gift From Greensboro by Quraysh Ali Lansana, illustrated by Skip Hill

Ambassador by William Alexander

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi, illustrations by Yutaka Houlette

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

Recommendations for preschool storytime:

A Chair For My Mother and sequels by Vera B. Williams

More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams

A is for Activist and Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara

The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Jacqueline Woodson’s picture books

Kadir Nelson’s picture books

Here are some photos of the displays I created at Addendum Books (Northeast corner of Randolph and Cleveland in St Paul, MN):


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Train is a Comin’

I feel like I’m about to be mowed down by a high-speed train filled to the brim with radioactive orange sludge.  Maybe you feel the same way.  Here are some ideas for what we can do under such circumstances:

1) Cover your head and just pray it’ll be quick and painless.  No, no, no.  GET UP OFF THOSE TRACKS!

2) Jump aboard the train.  Not a viable option.  Like, at all.  Try again.

3) Check the train schedule and hope against hope that there’s been some colossal misunderstanding and the locomotive bearing down on you is, in fact, the HillBilly Express, or the San Bern-adino Ambassador.

4) Dig a hole next to the tracks, line it with leaves and grass, and hibernate for the next four years.

5) Demand an inspection of the train.  Is it truly carrying what it’s supposed to be carrying?

6) Quickly hacksaw the tracks, causing massive, explosive derailment.  Sad.

7) Rewind the earth, à la Superman, going back, oh, about two or three years.

8) Instantaneously arrange for a stationary train to suddenly appear on the very same track, preferably a train filled with raw sewage and prion disease.  And get out of the way.  Fast.

9) Donate to Planned Parenthood.  Get off the tracks first.

10) Run screaming in the other direction, preferably Northward!  To Ottawa.  (I hear they skate to work on the frozen canal.  Delightful!)

11) Utilize the “Petrificus Totalus” spell at first.  Then gather the Patroni of rational people, the incarnations of any remaining shreds of hope, joy, and optimism, and send them out as emissaries of positive change.

12) Do the hard work of hailing the train, routing it onto safe pathways, protecting people and animals and the environment and education and the Arts and healthcare and culture and spirituality and industry and innovation from the toxic sludge, and methodically work from one car to the next, scrubbing out the misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, and caustic ignorance.

What would you add to the list?


Musical Moment


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Sunday Morning, Naked.

Ace gets up, agitated in his appointed role of The One Who Has To Take The Big E To Hockey.  I lie in bed and listen to the fussing and whining.  And then silence.

I get up.  ”E!  Get up!  You have to go to hockey!”  I open the shades and glance at the mound of covers.  ”Get up!  Now!”

Threats follow.  Because threats are such an effective parenting tool.  Not physical threats, of course.  We’re slightly more enlightened than that.  Slightly.

And I’m thinking Oh my gosh.  We’re raising an entitled little turkey who doesn’t realize how good he has it!  Hockey is expensive.  Hockey is a privilege.  He should bound out of bed, thrilled at the opportunity to exercise body and mind.

But he didn’t fall asleep until midnight.  What if he’s chronically underslept and that’s the root of all trouble?  

The night before, Ace (comatose in front of bad television after a bad stretch of work) said goodnight to him at 9 pm.  E was, indeed, in bed – clothed, with unbrushed/unflossed teeth, and a stack of books.  I arrived home around 9:25 and proceeded to grump out.  What do you mean you asked if he was in bed and he said yes so you said goodnight and assumed he’d go to sleep?

And when did reading become an activity in need of punishment?

How do we get him on a better sleep schedule?  Whenever he’s in bed at 9, he lies awake till 11 or 12.  Maybe I should give him melatonin.  Because drugs are the answer to everything.

E manages to stagger out of bed and much whining ensues as he struggles to even begin putting on his hockey gear.

Am I just substituting worry?  I don’t have to worry as much about farm accidents and polio epidemics and a clean water supply so I worry about sleep?

Poor me in my Summit Hill house with my neurotypical, apparently cic-gendered white son who has no chronic disease, thinking things are so rough.  Am I even allowed to complain?

Oh my gosh.  What if I just jinxed him?  What if now he’ll have a dire encounter with cops or if he develops -

Ace makes The Big E a piece of toast with Nutella.  E complains that the toast is burned and refuses to eat it.  (He later licks off the Nutella.)

We’re feeding him sugar!  All sugar!  How do we expect him to behave if he’s only consuming corn syrup?  Ack!  I sound like a privileged snorty-toot.

We have to limit his media exposure.  That’s it.  No more movies.  No more Pokémon Go.  And chores.  All chores all the time.  Does he even know how to clean a toilet?  Am I raising a pig?  I’m not setting a good example with the condition of my desk.  If my desk were pristine would he get up for hockey cheerfully?

The Big E sits on the couch, wearing only his t-shirt and cup, moping.  ”What are you doing?  Why are you just sitting there?”  He has the audacity to ask if he can take his iPad to hockey.  ”Are you kidding?  With the way you’re acting you don’t get your iPad for twenty-four hours!”  Things do not go well and I retire to the kitchen to take apart the Ventahood, ’cause nothing makes a morning better like getting down and dirty with ten pounds of rancid cooking grease.

Ace heads out to the car.

I can’t remember exactly what I said, something about I don’t care if you go to hockey half-naked, but pick up your bag and leave.  They leave.

What will happen when he goes to college?  Will he ever make it to class?  Will he lie around in his dorm room eating MSG-laden Doritos and playing first-person shooter games?  How can I even worry about this from such a privileged position as ASSUMING MY HEALTHY WHITE NEUROTYPICAL CIS-GENDERED CHILD WILL GO TO COLLEGE?!!

I call my friend, Christina, to commiserate, while eating a piece of triple-layer chocolate cake from Cafe Latté.  After the reassuring but solution-less call, I return to my greasy Ventahood job.

Does The Big E devalue homemaking?  Does he think less of me because I don’t work for money?  Does he understand the sacrifice I made when I essentially gave up my career for the sake of family life?   Don’t be so melodramatic, Anne.  You made an informed decision. But what if he never gets it?  What if he grows up to be a sexist, racist, entitled jerk who treats women badly?

I take a shower.

Did parents used to love their children less?  Did they think – Gee, there’s a fifty percent chance that this kid will die before he/she turns ten so I might as well not get too attached.   How could they launch into parenting at all under those conditions?  They had no birth control!  So they had no choice!  When will evolution realize that it would be best for everyone involved if fertility were something you elect to turn on instead of off?  

Does the GOP understand the full ramifications of defunding Planned Parenthood?  That unplanned pregnancy and abortion and cancer will increase?  The chasm between those who can afford medical care and those who can’t will further widen! 

By the time I’m out of the shower, the boys are back.  The Big E apologizes for the way the morning went, asks for his iPad back (“No!”), and proceeds to elaborate on all the ways we’ve treated him unfairly.  He then asks for his allowance, plus an additional dollar.

To reimburse him for the Doritos he purchased at hockey.

What if all the parents reading this actually have perfectly behaved children?  What if their kids bounce out of bed, responsible, thrifty, and empathic?  Maybe they make their parents unprompted breakfast-in-bed before heading off to church where they willingly serve community meals, fully understanding their own advantaged position in the world and vowing to correct all injustice.  Immediately.

The Big E narfs down the last of his cheesecake from the night before.

I will be judged a bad mother – “BM” will be my scarlet letters!  

Oh well.

I take a deep breath.  And close my computer.

Musical Moment


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The Space Between

Ace, The Big E, and I traipsed over to our friends’ house New Year’s Eve and made sushi.  (Lest you think I’ve completely lost my medical mind, let me assure you that I ate the slightly less raw fish.)  We quarantined the five children in a separate room and indulged in adult conversation for over an hour.

One of the conversations revolved around what our intentions are for 2017.  Not resolutions, but intentions.

2017 will likely be an interesting year.  Change will undoubtedly occur.  We’ll have countless opportunities to be better, kinder, more compassionate, calmer, more patient, and more loving.

There is a space between, the distance between an event (son makes snide remark, car pulls out in front of you on the freeway, dog pees all over his bed) and our response.  In 2017, I intend to find that space and sit in it, set up a lawnchair on the sandy beach of it and calmly consider my options.  Son makes a snide remark?  I’ll open up my sunbrella, lean back, and reflect.  Ahhh…  I can safely ignore him without turning him into a snotty entitled brat.

Prince gave his final Minnesota solo performance last winter.  A man, a purple piano, and his singular talent.  During the intimate performance, he reflected on his art.  “The space in between the notes… mmm… that’s the good part.”

In 2017, I’m seeking that space in between.  If you get there first, send up a flare.


Musical Moment   

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Merry Christmas, Thief

To the person who stole my identity last week:

We need to talk.  Your timing was, shall we say, suboptimal.  I realize you probably thought you were being helpful, applying for all those credit cards using my name, date-of-birth, and social security number.  The truth is, I simply don’t need six additional cards.  But thanks.

I loved reconnecting with my banker, financial planner, insurance company, tax preparer, and creditors, actual and potential, far and wide.  I particularly enjoyed my certified correspondence with the IRS – such a jovial lot, based in Fresno, CA, the gang capital of the republic formerly known as the US.

I’ll invoice you for the time I spent untangling your mess (approximately 116 hours, and counting).  Do tell me your most accurate address.  My last hourly rate was as a family physician (but, of course, you already know that).  I’ll be sure to extrapolate up for cost-of-living increases.

So.  Since you and I, heretofore referred to as Iyou (not to be confused with Ioyou) are now joined in an unholy union, let’s establish a few ground rules:

1)    Iyou am expecting 26 people for Christmas dinner.  I hope you know how to cook.  And wash dishes.  Please plan to be cordial.  If you aren’t, we’ll seat you next to my father-in-law, former president of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

2)    Rafa the Pomeranian is quite ill and requires twice daily dosing of an entire bagful of drugs.  Iyou lovingly crush all pills, mix in the powders, add fish oil and Co-Q10, and swirl all of it in unsalted peanut butter for his royal furness.  Your assistance with this matter, as well as the middle-of-the-night-potty-breaks-due-to-the-lasix-and-spironolactone, is expected.

3)    You, not Iyou, need to work on budgeting and a long-term legal financial plan.  We, Ace and I, will recommend appropriate coursework.  At this time, we think it’s best that you not have unfettered access to myour credit cards.

4)    By the way, there will be no conjugal visits with my husband.  I realize he is quite charming, adorable, and mostly irresistible.  Some say he bears a startling resemblance to Donnie Wahlberg.  However, Iyou is not allowed in the marital bed.  Only I.

5)    Did I mention that you better know how to cook?  In fact, Iyou has little interest in most things culinary, so perhaps you could take over in this regard.

6)    Iyou spend much of myour day reminding the tween – anything from brushing teeth, to shoveling, to unloading the dishwasher.  Patience is a virtue that, based on the aforementioned credit card situation, you may want to develop.  Trust me, Iyou’ll need it.

7)    Iyou volunteer with the music program at The Big E’s school.  Piano proficiency is non-negotiable, including sight-reading skills.  If you don’t already know how to play, chop chop.  (Or should I say chopsticks.)

8)    Plan to brush up on your poop-scooping, laundry folding, vacuuming, dishwashing, mail sorting, and snowshoveling skills.  Iyou must understand how to deal with the snowblower, the particular oil/gas mixture, the titchy choke, the angles of the snowchute.  This is the glamorous life you select when you steal the identity of a Minnesotan.  I hope you like lutefisk.

In conclusion, Santa knows whether you’ve been naughty or nice.  And Karma is a fickle bedpartner.  #WatchYourBack.


Musical Moment

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The Darkest Days

The first week of December, a young Minnesota mother died by suicide.  The effects of her death rippled through my FaceBook feed, particularly impacting the breastfeeding, attachment parenting, and ECFE communities.

I read some of the details of her story, how she leaves behind two young boys.  Here is my confession: My first reaction was, “How could she do that to her children?

This response is not helpful.

Let’s change the story.  A youngish man, say 46 years old – I’m taking creative license with “young” –  a youngish man lives with his spouse and children in a modest home in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis.  He works in the facilities management department of the neighboring hospital.  (I think this week it’s called the University of Minnesota Medical Center, West Bank.)  He doesn’t visit the doctor much, but gets his annual flu shot.  He considers himself to be “pretty healthy” and doesn’t worry a whole lot about the extra 10-15 pounds that he’s carrying around.

One day, this man is out shoveling snow.  He experiences sudden crushing chest pressure and keels over dead on his sidewalk.

We say, “Oh no!  What a terrible tragedy!  How can we support his family in their time of need?”  We do not say, “How could he do that to his children?”

Or how about the 35-year-old woman who was diagnosed with diabetes at age ten?  She manages her blood sugars well with the assistance of an insulin pump.  She follows her doctor’s recommendations to the best of her ability.  One summer day, she’s barefoot on the beach of Lake Nokomis and steps on a piece of broken glass.  It’s a small piece, and initially she doesn’t even notice the injury due to the peripheral nerve damage from her diabetes.  She goes about her life and several days later, she takes off her socks at night and sees some drainage on the cotton.  She inspects her feet and discovers an infection in one of her toes.  Her family doctor examines the situation, removes a shard of glass, and prescribes an appropriate antibiotic.  Forty-eight hours later, she is admitted to the hospital with cellulitis.  Despite the best efforts of modern medicine, she subsequently dies of overwhelming sepsis.

We do not say, “How could she do that to her children?”

Chest pressure is a symptom of heart disease.  Streaky skin redness and swelling are symptoms of cellulitis.

Thoughts of suicide are symptoms of mental illness.

Without treatment, heart disease can lead to sudden cardiac death due to acute myocardial infarction.  Without treatment, and sometimes even with treatment, cellulitis can lead to overwhelming sepsis and death.

Without treatment, mental illness can lead to thoughts of self-harm and to death by suicide.

Let’s put it another way:

Heart disease : Fatal MI              Mental Illness : Suicide

People who have personally experienced mental illness know that when you’re feeling bad, when you’re standing at the bottom of the pit, or lying in a fetal position in the toxic sludge at the bottom of the pit, it’s hard to be your most rational self.  It’s hard to say, “Hey Self – remember all those coping strategies you’ve been working on for, literally, years?  Remember that appointment you have tomorrow with your therapist?  Remember all those friends who love you and would walk through fire to pull you out of your Hell?”

There’s a biological explanation for this.  In times of stress, our bodies are programmed to revert to the basic responses of fight or flight.  We don’t stand around evaluating our options when a semi is barreling down on us.  “Hm – According to physics, I need to move exactly 1.25 feet per second in a westward direction in order to avoid being pancaked.”  Our cerebral cortices go “off-line” and our bodies simply react.  That’s a good thing when a semi is barreling down on us.

During a mental health crisis, our bodies perceive extreme stress, and higher-level information processing is simply unavailable.  Off-line.  No measured reasoning, no rational planning for the future, no weighing of pros and cons.

Suicide is an eternal flight response.

My heart breaks for the children of the woman who died earlier this month.  I send my love to all those touched by her life and her story.

To everyone who experiences mental illness, please know this:  I love you.  You are loved.  You are a treasured light on this earth.  We, your community, will help you out of the pit.  We don’t expect you to climb out entirely on your own.  You are not alone.  We will walk with you through the valley of the shadow.  Just cry out, whimper if it’s all you have left in you.  Tell us you need help and We Will Help You.

I love you.  You are loved.

And to those who enjoy good mental health – how can you shine your light into someone else’s darkness?  How will you help them escape the pit?  And by the way, I love you, too.


Musical Moment




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The Non-Reproducible Cheeseball

Food management is not one of my strengths.  I cook because we eat, not from a place of wholesome domestic joy.  Over the years, Ace and I have strategized approaches to meal-planning: Monday is Fish Night, Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, Wednesday is We-forgot-to-go-to-the-grocery-store-so-we’re-ordering-pizza Night, etc.  If Ace were the Home CEO, I’m sure the plan would be implemented successfully.  With me at the home helm, well, I’m happy if I cook something a couple times a week.

Lack of planning might lead to excessive food waste if not for the Savior of Questionable Foods, Ruth Lippin, my beloved mother.

Frugal is my mom’s middle name.  Seriously.  RFL.  Ruth can make a box of ziplock baggies last a lifetime.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

Mom once objected when I threatened to toss a pile of moldy cheese leftovers in the trash.  (Why can’t anyone ever eat the last bits of a chunk of cheese?)  “I’ll make them into a cheeseball,” she said.  “Uh, okay?” I replied.

Now her cheeseballs are famous.  I cleaned out our cheese drawer two weeks ago and delivered the dregs to Mom.  She got out her Cuisinart, pushed the magic button, and VOILA!  She took the cheeseball to a party with some nice crackers.

“Ruth!  This is the best cheeseball I’ve ever tasted!  You must give me the recipe!”


There’s a metaphor in here.  Can you find it?


Musical Moment 

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Guest Post Monday – Ode to a Black Cooking Pot

My parents accumulate people.  There were always extras around our home, for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for Sunday afternoon generic communing.  Mom and Dad downsized about ten years ago.  Fortunately, they didn’t downsize their desire to informally adopt a lovely variety of strays.

We met Siya Ndwandwe when he was a freshperson at Macalester College, my mom’s alma mater.  My mother heard from the International Student Host Coordinator that Siya, native to Swaziland, had nowhere to go for the winter break!  He lived with my parents for a couple weeks and they took over as his official Host Grandparents.

Siya is a lovely man.  He visited his family last summer and photographed his (biological) grandma’s cooking pot.  Today he wrote an ode to the cooking pot.  Here it is:

“You round-bellied son of a god,
Black as the night,
Unapologetically black.
The hush songs you sing
Bring neighbours, near and far
As the big brown logs burn bellow your belly.
You were there at my uncle’s funeral,
You were there at the family reunion,
Just there, doing your thing, without care!
You three legged, son of a god.
You cool, centered, and care-free son of a god.”

Thanks, Siya, for letting me post!

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Thanksgiving – Off the Beaten Path

So.  Family and Friends.  Let’s just get that one out of the way right off the bat.  Great.  Here’s a list of other stuff I’m thankful for in no particular order:

1) curiosity

2) pain sensation

3) music

4) butter

5) dreams

6) indoor plumbing

7) color

8) safe drinking water

9) neuronal plasticity

10) creativity

11) the reticuloendothelial system (apparently the preferred term is now the mononuclear phagocytic system – I’m officially old)

12) the Bill of Rights

13) Iris the now deceased yellow labrador retriever who ate my grandmother’s antique settee during a windstorm

14) Henry the late irascible terrier chihuahua mutt who selected Ace as my future mate

15) dead Teddy, the furless geriatric pomeranian who bit everyone but me

16) community

17) empathy

18) books that keep me up till 1 am against my will

19) the sewer system

20) sexuality

21) emotion

22) the mucociliary escalator

23) and YOU

What would you add to the list?


Musical Moment

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My Tiny Revolution

This past week has been – uh – interesting.  I’m not sleeping particularly well and am nearing the point where I’ll need to withdraw completely from all sources of media.

I decided to take some Tiny Steps in a Tiny Revolution, pretty much to keep my sanity.  (The Tiny House thing never really worked for me, but a Tiny Revolution?  That’s a cause I can get behind.)

Here are the Tiny Steps in my Tiny Revolution thus far:

1) I greeted strangers at Target with eye contact, a smile, and a “Good Morning.”  It went well.  A few folks didn’t hear me or pretended not to hear me but the vast majority smiled and greeted me right back!

2) Tiny Step One was exhausting and I recovered by doing Tiny Step Two: eating more locally-sourced cookies.  The particular cookies that revived me after Step One were conjured at the Positively Third Street Bakery of Duluth, MN.

3) I refreshed my memory on the Electoral College Situation and vowed to ask Someone Smart how it could be overhauled.

4) I read a nice predictable romance novel that used all the reassuring romance novel words, tidbits like “frisson” and “moue.”  The presence of semi-realistic sex was a refreshing surprise.

5) I didn’t ask anyone to unfriend me on FaceBook.  If you voted for Trump, I would welcome an opportunity to engage in civil discourse around your personal beliefs, preferably accompanied by something hard-core – chocolate flourless cake with fudge sauce would be a good start since I’m not really one for the drink.

6) I wrote a riff on Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon.  You can catch it here if you missed it on Wednesday.

7) I distributed many hugs and will continue to be free with my love.

8) Ace moved out of our marital bed into the guest room recently when I caught a cold.  During his absence, I replaced him with a pile of nice fluffy clean unfolded laundry.  Yesterday, I folded all the laundry, put it away, and ordered Ace back into our bed.  He whined a bit about my snoring but I know that he knows that we know that it’s best to keep those you love close at hand in uncertain times.

9) We used to do “Rose & Thorn” at night, naming one good thing and one less good thing.  Now we do “Three Roses.”  We end each day with three positives apiece = nine positives overall.  A veritable rose bouquet.

10) I reconnected with a family that I met eight years ago.  They arrived in the United States as refugees and are now US citizens, working Americans, homeowners, residents of a thriving racially and culturally diverse suburban neighborhood, and parents/grandparents of a new generation.  This is America at its best.

What Tiny Steps are you taking in your Tiny Revolution?

Musical Moment

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