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Monday News: Book Bub secures funding, MFA programs lack diversity, the...

BookBub Raises $3.8 Million in Series A Funding – Book Bub, which promotes digital books through daily emails to a massive subscription list of more than 3 million, has just raised $3.8 million from investors including Avalon Ventures, NextView Ventures, Founder Collective, and Bloomberg Beta. The investments were made in exchange for preferred stock, which is called Series A funding, because it is the first in a series of funding opportunities (or requests, depending on your perspective). Book Bub serves traditional, digital, and indie publishers and authors, and it can be quite expensive for an author or publisher seeking visibility among subscribers.

BookBub has run 10,000 ebook deals over the past couple years, leading to purchases of more than one million ebooks per month (as well as downloads of millions of free ebooks). “BookBub’s traction proves it’s filling a huge need for readers, authors, and publishers,” said David Beisel, partner at NextView Ventures. “We meet with countless startups, but it’s uncommon to find one that has become such a meaningful part of an industry so early in its existence.” –The Digital Reader

MFA VS. POC – In anticipation of an anthology from a writer’s workshop for authors of color co-founded by Junot Diaz, the author talks about the lack of diversity in writing programs and the replication of the white male default subjectivity in the training of young writers. It’s a sad state of affairs Diaz chronicles, and makes even more remarkable the fact that literary fiction seems to offer much greater diversity than genre fiction.

From what I saw the plurality of students and faculty had been educated exclusively in the tradition of writers like William Gaddis, Francine Prose, or Alice Munro—and not at all in the traditions of Toni Morrison, Cherrie Moraga, Maxine Hong-Kingston, Arundhati Roy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Walker, or Jamaica Kincaid. In my workshop the default subject position of reading and writing—of Literature with a capital L—was white, straight and male. This white straight male default was of course not biased in any way by its white straight maleness—no way! Race was the unfortunate condition of nonwhite people that had nothing to do with white people and as such was not a natural part of the Universal of Literature, and anyone that tried to introduce racial consciousness to the Great (White) Universal of Literature would be seen as politicizing the Pure Art and betraying the (White) Universal (no race) ideal of True Literature. –The New Yorker

On “Slut Shelves” and Eating Our Own In Fiction – A very interesting post on the existence of “slut shelves” at GoodReads and the persistent sexual and gender double standards in YA books, fiction in general, and society in general. I recently posted a story about the belief that some authors have that too many women serve as gatekeepers in children’s literature, and this article adds another dimension to the innate sexism in that belief. I know this is a depressing subject, but given the incredible speed at which women in the US are losing control over our reproductive rights, we need to be paying attention to the diffusion of these double standards. Romance certainly has its share of “slut” accusations, where, as women, we should certainly know better.

Women’s voices in fiction are drowned out and forgotten. What it means to be a girl ismade into a myth — the myth that girls are meant to be easy to digest and the myth that the right girls are “not like other girls.” We label books for young readers as being books for boys or books for girls, and we perpetuate the idea that one gender is far more important to cater to than the other. That the voices and needs as females don’t matter as much because “what about the boys?” We call books where girls dare to make choices about their own bodily pleasure smut, and we treat them as lesser, and we call books where girls have their bodies taken advantage of the same damn thing–Book Riot

The sex talk that young women should get – This post could have been written in rebuttal to the slut shelves of GoodReads. It’s a very interesting contemplation of the ways in which girls are taught about sex in a way that does not provide them with agency and an appreciation for their own pleasure. The stigma around female masturbation, the author notes, is a prime example of the ways in which girls and women are sexualized within a cultural environment that makes female pleasure something furtive, secret, and even shameful.

But girls are given short shrift when it comes to hormones and sexual curiosity. Overwhelmingly, the social message that girls hear is that sex for us is meaningless without love. Rather than choosing a boy, teaching him to listen and telling him where to go, we’re told instead from a young age to be wary of who we ‘give it’ to because ‘boys don’t respect girls who don’t respect themselves’.

All of that places girls in the position of passive bystander to sexual activity. Because what’s not to respect about a woman who knows what she wants, who isn’t afraid to ask for it and who understands that the world of pleasure has more for her than simply negotiating the exchange of sex (a secondary activity) for the receipt of love (the primary goal)? –Daily Life

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

22 Comments

  1. mari
    May 05, 2014 @ 05:41:55

    So depressing that DA keeps using the term “reproductive rights” for abortion. Stop. Just stop. Some of us are actually glad this nation is trending pro-life, not that you’d know it, reading this site and its assumptions that all correct people are as pro-abortion as the writers here.
    As far as the Diaz piece goes, I feel sad she defines herself solely by race, gender and sexuality. And she seems to think this is all the fault of the white men she encountered. Considering oneself less than the sum of one’s parts seems to be the end result of most education. As far as the sex talk, girls should get…..bullshit. Really utterly insulting. Who thinks this way, other than a few, self-described “gender theorists?” How the hell is it empowering to seperate sex from love, caring, committment? To treat sex as a way to use guys/women as tools of mutual masturbation? And even worse, to tell parents any kind of morality in sex ed is wrong? This is “women-friendly?” I read romance books because this kind of thinking is always negated by the end. Would
    be wonderful to see links to things on this site
    which reflected this POV, instead of the constant stream of “diversity as God,” “evil society wants to control women’s bodies,” and “yay feminism, killing infants is empowering” mindest.

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  2. wikkidsexycool
    May 05, 2014 @ 06:43:00

    @mari:

    Ya know Mari, the time period you so lovingly recall deemed women “frigid” and separated the good girls from the bad girls, based on sexual rules created by men. Girls were taught to wear pink and white, while boys wore manly masculine colors like blue, black and brown. Oh, and there was something called “segregation” that claimed someone like me couldn’t possibly compete on your level, much less use the same toilet.
    Do I wanna go back to that? Hell no. So in your words, “Stop. Just stop.” And maybe, just maybe you’ll learn something new, because the articles are also talking about having a choice. Not just one size fits all, or one point of view, or one color above another. Diversity and pro-choice aren’t taking away your “rights” imho they’re adding to them.

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  3. wikkidsexycool
    May 05, 2014 @ 06:43:43

    @mari:

    Ya know Mari, the time period you so lovingly recall deemed women “frigid” and separated the good girls from the bad girls, based on sexual rules created by men. Girls were taught to wear pink and white, while boys wore manly masculine colors like blue, black and brown. Oh, and there was something called “segregation” that claimed someone like me couldn’t possibly compete on your level, much less use the same toilet.

    Do I wanna go back to that? Hell no. So in your words, “Stop. Just stop.” And maybe, just maybe you’ll learn something new, because the articles are also talking about having a choice. Not just one size fits all, or one point of view, or one color above another. Diversity and pro-choice aren’t taking away your “rights” it’s adding to them.

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  4. Robin/Janet
    May 05, 2014 @ 06:58:43

    @mari:

    1. Characterizing the very broad category of female reproductive rights as “abortion” does not make it so. Nor does characterizing the encouragement of women to embrace their sexuality without shame as ‘godless’ and ‘amoral.’ Or insisting that women who support other women’s right to choose are themselves not “pro-life.” Those are obscene distortions I would ask YOU to stop, as they’re factually inaccurate and logically unsound, as well as offensive.

    2. First of all, Junot Diaz is a *he*, not a *she*. The Pulitzer Prize winning author is on the faculty at MIT.

    More important, though, is the false belief that the a rhetorical focus on *other people’s race, gender, and sexuality* is not itself a fixation on those characteristics.

    Additionally, I always find denial of the reality of social diversity baffling, especially from those who identify themselves as white conservatives. Diversity has been consistently demonstrated to improve learning outcomes (PDF) and intellectual cognition. We’re not just talking about the co-curricular and social development outcomes, but actual intellectual processing. In fact, it’s white students who actually benefit the most in this regard from a diverse learning environment. Which, for all those who talk about how we should just be focusing on “learning” and are concerned about the welfare of white students, should be a comfort; in fact, they should be the prime advocates for and supporters of policies and practices that support and facilitate diversity. A number of interesting theories (PDF) have been offered for this philosophical inconsistency, but regardless of why it happens, the fact that diversity *does* facilitate learning makes the often derisive resistance to it as unimportant or counter-productive factually inaccurate and illogical, at best.

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  5. Janet
    May 05, 2014 @ 07:04:04

    Speaking of pink and girls, if anyone questions the extent to which gender is a socialized construct, ponder the fact that as late as 1918, pink was *the* color for boys, and blue *the* color for girls.

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  6. hapax
    May 05, 2014 @ 08:09:56

    Mari, you are doing a terrific job of promoting diversity — I actually agree with you on many social issues, but the way you constantly bemoan that the dominant cultural paradigm is somehow being silenced and persecuted by the Romance genre makes me want to seek out more books that challenge and subvert my assumptions.

    Speaking of encouraging diversity, I see that Bowker is raising prices for ISBNs.

    That may sound like an “inside baseball”, but it means that getting books out there by small and indie presses and self-publishing just got a little bit harder.

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  7. Lynnd
    May 05, 2014 @ 09:43:00

    @mari: Mari, you just make me angry and I really can’t refrain from commenting anymore (even my don’t feed the trolls meter has limits). You are the beneficiary of the struggle which women have fought forever for reproductive rights – which in more blunt terms means that a woman has the right to control her own body and is not subject to the whims of some man or religious institution. You now get to live in a world where you can say “no” to unwanted sexual activity, even in your own marriage. You now have the right not to be beaten by your spouse or partner. You have access to safe and reliable birth control which means that you don’t have to have 10 or 20 children that you can’t afford to feed because your husband “has rights to your body that you can’t refuse” or because your priest tells you that you are going to hell because you decide you don’t want more than four children because you can’t afford to feed them. You actually have access to safe and reliable fertility treatments as well. You can also choose to have 10 or 20 children if that’s what you want. As for abortion, the only thing that legalized abortion changed is that women no longer had to go to some hack in a back room somewhere or take some potion, either of which had a good chance of killing them, in order to terminate a pregnancy. My mother is 92 years old and thanks God every day that we don’t have to go back to those supposed “good old days.” The stories she told about what REALLY went on would make your hair stand on end.

    If you believe that you shouldn’t have the right to control your own body, that’s your choice; however, you have no right to take away my or any other woman’s right to control what happens with our bodies. You have no idea of the circumstances of my life or any other woman’s life on which our choices are based.

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  8. Mary Beth
    May 05, 2014 @ 10:11:19

    @mari: Pro-abortion, pro-life…how about pro-choice. Abortion is not every woman’s choice, however every woman deserves the choice. I am 65 years old and I have vivid memories of the years when I was a teenager and young adult when women had no choice and some of those outcomes were beyond tragic.

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  9. MrsJoseph
    May 05, 2014 @ 10:13:08

    Mari. Not surprised to see you trolling again. *rolls eyes*

    I loved the article on the MFA program. I once thought about going on to get an MFA at the dawn of my college career. My creative writing teacher – white, straight, male – talked me out of that quite quickly.

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  10. Ridley
    May 05, 2014 @ 10:25:24

    Haaahaha! I saw the Junot Diaz piece linked here and immediately thought “I bet mari’s the first comment.”

    But, hey, at least she’s civil about her oppressive speech, right?

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  11. shilohwalker
    May 05, 2014 @ 10:36:36

    I volunteer at my kids school. It’s something I’ve always done. When my oldest was in 1st Grade, I was in there working with a young girl on her reading. I don’t remember her name, which is kind of odd because I can still remember her face on that day is very clearly. I remember knowing that she looked like she wasn’t feeling good. I was a little worried that she might have the flu. But I’d had the flu shot so I didn’t let myself worry too much.

    You see, I was pregnant. Few days later I found out it wasn’t the flu, in actuality it was a lot worse. she had fifths disease.

    what happened later wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her parents fault. Nobody realized she was really all that sick. It wasn’t my fault. It was just one of those things that happened. But my baby died.

    I have never had the disease, you see.

    This is not a big deal for kids, for adults. Unless you’re pregnant and in your first trimester. The baby died while I was still carrying.

    at this point, we had to make a choice. I could either continue to carry the baby until my body naturally aborted it or I can let the doctor medically induced abortion. Some people think that what I should have done is let my body naturally abort.

    After all, miscarriage is natural. That’s what a lot of people think. Miscarriages also kill women. More than likely it would have happened while I was at home. What if it had happened when I was there alone? What if it had happened when my two children were there and my husband wasn’t? what if I wasn’t at home, though? What if I had been out driving? What if the cramping started suddenly while I was driving and I caused a wreck? What if it happened while I was out driving on the smaller country roads where I live and I ended up being out there by myself for hours before anybody came and saw me? What then? I could have bled to death. Is that the right answer?

    Women die from miscarriage. Pregnancy, a lot of people don’t realize, still kills women, in this country.

    miscarriage can also lead to problems conceiving later. It was a hard choice, it was an awful choice. And it was my choice. Actually, I do believe it was a choice between me and my husband, but in the end he told me whatever I chose to do, he would support it.

    I went home and thought about it. Cried about it. Prayed about it. Raged about it. The I decided to do but I knew in my heart was the right thing for my family. I decided to have the medically induced miscarriage…an abortion.

    it was safe, my kids were not forced to see anything, I was there with my husband, and we got to say goodbye to our little girl.

    There are those who would judge me, there are those who will judge me. But, as I am a Christian, I believe there is only one who has the right to judge me. And that is my Lord. and as this choice, in my heart, felt like the right one, I don’t believe he is angry with me over he tried to judge me over it He has judged me over this. I do believe He would judge those He tried to judge me

    Mari, as you speak of morality, I wonder what’s your view would be on this story. you speak of morality and yet you judge others so easily.

    And it is all true. I’ve spoken of this before. I’ll tell it again.

    There are women who find themselves pregnant, despite all intentions not to become pregnant, women who have life-threatening illnesses, and and if they had to carry a pregnancy full term it would kill them and they could leave children, families behind. they are forced to make choices.

    Women who find themselves right, in other situations. they have been raped.

    there are women who do take precautions, you are married or in a committed relationship, and yet they find themselves pregnant anyway. They can’t afford a child, or another child. Nobody knows our situation. Nobody needs to judge them.

    People do not make the decision to have an abortion just because they wake up one morning hey I’ll decide I’m going to go do this…

    it is invasive. your yearly Donna logical exam has nothing on a an abortion. Imagine delivery, but without the delivery and a happy baby at the end, you’re left with nothing.

    I speak from experience it is painful, and I’m not talking about the psychological pain, because mine will be different, as we were anticipating that baby and I can’t speak for anybody else’s experiences. But there is physical pain and I do mean a lot of it. It is brutal. It is not something done for kicks and giggles.

    its not a choice anybody would make lightly, considering how invasive and how painful it is. And whatever reason they have for doing it, it is their reason. Nobody gets to dictate anybody’s choices in life.

    If it is so easy and so acceptable to do that, then perhaps, mari, and you should let one of us dictate your life choices.

    apologies for any typos. I’m doing this on my phone and using the voice dictation. I read it through several times but I can’t be certain I called everything.

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  12. shilohwalker
    May 05, 2014 @ 10:43:44

    Iy. Donna logical should be gynelogical …apparently my phone find female thing icky

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  13. hapax
    May 05, 2014 @ 11:16:56

    @shilohwalker: That’s a powerful story, and it’s courageous and inspiring of you to share it.

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  14. SAO
    May 05, 2014 @ 11:39:10

    My kids were just complaining in the car about the books they had to read for English. To be great literature, it generally has to be dreary and about a man. My middle school English classes convinced me that I hate literature — while I was reading Ivanhoe, Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, and Les Miserables for entertainment.

    I gobbled up Gone with the Wind and absorbed all the patter about happy slaves taken care of by benevolent owners. It was I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, that killed that. Bailey was smart and lucky to get a “good” job as a pullman porter (a glorified waiter). Barack Obama was smart, went to Harvard, and is president.

    We need other perspectives to show us what is really true, not what we want to see, because believe me, it’s a lot more pleasant to think of Ellen O’Hara staying up at night to heal sick slaves than to think of handicapped Uncle Willie having to hide in the potato bin because the KKK needs to avenge some purported slight and any n**** will do.

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  15. Shiloh Walker
    May 05, 2014 @ 13:03:01

    @hapax: It’s a story full of typos. Stupid dictation.

    Thanks, Hapax, but it’s not uncommon -it’s the same story that many, many women have gone through. While maybe not attributable to fifth’s disease, many women end up losing the child in the first few months, even in the second trimester…or the final, and faced with the same choices.

    It’s a heart breaking one. It took a long time before I could think about it without crying, then without tearing up.

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  16. Tina
    May 05, 2014 @ 13:32:29

    I was not enrolled in the creative writing program, but my English major in college, when I began the program, was (in retrospect) depressingly banal. The curriculum was all about the ‘canon’ and to complete the requirements, you basically had to march through a series of courses that organized literature chronologically. Sure there were always a course on ‘Black Women Writers’ or on Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But most of the courses were focused on dead, white males, mostly British. And the pedagogy was focused mostly about the meaning in the words.

    I was actually enrolled in the journalism program and only was taking English as a second major. I hadn’t taken any of the English courses at all in my freshman year. I could not raise any enthusiasm for the major and was seriously thinking about dropping it and picking up Political Science.

    However, In my second year, the program underwent a seismic shift. Gone was the canon-based curriculum and in came a more theoretical based curriculum. No longer were we being required to read the books/novels/plays and interpret meaning, we now had to read texts in their historical, political and social contexts. Sure we still had the obligatory course on Shakespeare, but instead of the course being called something like ‘The Tragedies’ it might now be called ‘Shakespeare and Queer Theory.’ Each course in some way not only examined texts on their on-the-page meaning, but also placed them vis a vis race, class, gender and sexuality.

    The very first introductory English course I took in my major was an introduction to different types narrative texts. The first type we looked at was film and my very first piece of reading in that class was Laura Mulvey’s ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ and it was all about the male gaze in film and women being objectified. In that same class when we got to ‘spoken word’ as a type of text, we listened to the poetry and jazz of Gil Scott Heron — my professor refused to let us read his stuff, we had to listen to it. That class was a revelation to me and single handedly kept me in the major. It was also a intro to what I could expect in the upper level courses. Where before I had been excited about my journalism major, now I was *really* excited about the English major. Not only that, enrollment in the major rose and the faces in the courses got browner.

    Years later as I now work in higher education I realize what a radical change it was they made at the time (20+ years ago) and how different the program was from many across the country, especially for an undergraduate program. I am not at all surprised by Diaz’s article having observed these same types of things happen in institutions I’ve worked at. It makes me all the more cognizant of how lucky I was to have the experience I did when I was a student.

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  17. Sunny
    May 05, 2014 @ 15:24:57

    I was 20, living with 5 roommates in a flat, and had been doing it for years. I didn’t find out until a decade later that it was typical of CSA survivors to specifically seek out unsafe sex and other self-destructive behaviours, linking self-worth to someone else’s pleasure. That’s exactly what it was, for me — I honestly believed the only thing I was good for was giving a man twice or more my age a good time.

    I’m incredibly lucky that the only thing that happened was I got pregnant.

    I thought I had no support. Instead, my family supported me, despite my parents desperately wanting grandchildren and me not having spoken to them for three years. My doctor booked me an appointment out of town because she knew the nurses at the local hospital would make my life hell until I left, rather than let me go through with an abortion. My dad went with me to the clinic — at the time I thought it was just overwhelming support from an incredibly conservative father, but in hindsight I’m pretty sure he went to protect me from abusive “pro-life” people. The clinic doors were bomb-proof and the receptionists behind bulletproof glass. All this is in a country that has NEVER re-visited a woman’s right to her own body once it was established. My husband knows and has never done anything but agree with me it was the right choice — because it was my choice.

    I know Mari never comes back to read the comments, just drops her hate-bombs and goes and I find her “FIRST, also racism/homophobia/sexism nah nah nah” comments incredibly chilling and that they really pull away from the discussion of the news events. But this really struck a nerve and I am furious.

    I’d make the same decision again and I will defend any woman their right to have a child — or not — safely in mind and body with tooth and nail. It’s not shameful. It’s not a horrible secret. When I spoke up about it, I had so many people tell me they had had an abortion too and couldn’t say anything about it because of people like Mari right there in their lives.

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  18. leftcoaster
    May 05, 2014 @ 15:35:24

    @mari, The thing is, I’m pretty ok with you having viewpoints that I think are incredibly contradictory. Bemoaning the fact that you can only find liberal conversations about art and culture cracked me up and your unawareness of what you owe the very people you are decrying as horrible lefty elitists is kind of funny in an ironic sort of way.

    What I’m having trouble with is that you can come here and play in the sandbox with us, but if situations were flipped, I doubt I’d get the polite tolerance you get. You seem very certain that your beliefs are infallible, but your lack of compassion for people who disagree with you makes me think you or a beloved family member has never found themselves in a horrific situation that involves a pregnancy. Like the situation my mother was in when she was 13 years old and pregnant from her father raping her. Not everyone has been blessed with a life that never challenges their beliefs.

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  19. Liz H.
    May 05, 2014 @ 17:06:22

    @Robin/Janet: Wonderfully said, with excellent citations.

    My grandmother defined reproductive rights for me when I was a child as the right to understand your own body, have basic medical care, and to *have* or not have children when you choose to.

    In other words, reproductive rights doesn’t just mean abortion. It means availability of accurate sex education, basic OB/GYN health services, birth control, abortion, pre- and post- natal care, and more, regardless of who you are, where you live, or how much money you have, and the freedom to make whatever choice is right for you.

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  20. Janine
    May 05, 2014 @ 17:29:07

    @Sunny and Shiloh Walker: Thank you for sharing your stories. I am grateful for your courage. (((( hugs ))))

    @Tina: I read “Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema” for a college class also. It was a revelation and changed the way I look at films. I was not an English major, but I took a number of English classes. Not all were equally good in regard to the diversity of the material we studied, but some did a good job with that, and I could tell things were starting to change for the better. I am grateful for that aspect of my education and I envy yours.

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  21. Darlene Marshall
    May 06, 2014 @ 11:08:49

    I want to thank the courageous ladies like @Shiloh and @Sunny for sharing their stories. I’m old enough to remember the bad old days before safe, legal abortion, the days when a nice girl wouldn’t dare walk into a drugstore and buy condoms for her own protection, the days when rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters did not exist.

    I cannot convey to you adequately in this small space how strongly I feel about safe and accessible reproductive choices and how glad I am to live in the 21st century.

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  22. Darlene Marshall
    May 06, 2014 @ 11:09:58

    On a different note, I use BookBub and enjoy their service. I hope they continue to thrive.

    ReplyReply

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