Not that we’re planning to do so, but if we were to move to Florida and I wanted to once again teach Spanish and French language and culture, I’d have to excise a few items from my lesson plans. This wouldn’t be easy because I understand the importance of representation and that encountering links to one’s identity make learning more meaningful.

If I were to teach in Florida, I wouldn’t mention Federico García Lorca’s sexuality, the color-coded symbolism in his poetry, or the reason for which he was killed during Spain’s Civil War. I wouldn’t point out how politically subversive Franciso de Goya was when he painted the portraits of Spain’s royal family. I’d decline to mention Pablo Picasso’s anti-fascist stand which he so clearly expressed in his masterwork, Guernica. And of course, I wouldn’t breathe a word regarding Spain’s role during the slave trade.

I’d skip mentioning Josephine Baker’s bisexuality and her participation in France’s resistance movement during WWII. I’d avoid any reference to Marcel Proust’s/ Artur Rimbaud’s/ Colette’s/Françoise Sagan’s/ Alphonse Daudet’s sexualities as if that played no role at all in the literature they created. If my level three French students were to read Daudet’s “The Last Class,” I’d avoid any discussion of that story’s portrait of a French school system buckling under the oppressive rules dictated by Hitler’s Germany.

I would not offer my classes any info about the mid-twentieth century’s Négritude movement that flowed from the pens of writers born in the French-owned colonies of Africa and the Carribean. Why would my students, especially my students of color, need or want to know anything about the Black writers who stood up and opposed the destructive messages of white superiority and Black inferiority that proliferated throughout the French speaking colonies?

Of course, I’d conveniently forget to show subtitled foreign films like “Rue Cases-Nègres,” “La Vie est Belle,” and “Au Revoir, Les Enfants.” I wouldn’t want the first film to disturb any student’s idealized vision of how wonderful it is to grow up on a tropical island, even if you are poor. I would avoid showing the second and third films because I wouldn’t want to challenge the belief system of students who might be holocaust deniers.

If there’s anything the past seven years have taught us, it’s how to bury the truth under lies and malign groups of people based upon their color, sexuality, religious beliefs, and political alliances.

I could never be a teacher in Florida. I’d have to omit all of these lessons, and in doing so, I’d lose a great deal of my soul.


And now, on to a more pleasant topic.

Have you watched any episodes of the PBS series, “Astrid?” It’s a police procedural that’s set in Paris. What makes this particular series unique are the two protagonists, Raphaëlle, a detective of some rank, and Astrid, a civilian employee who works in the police department’s records division. Astrid is autistic. She possesses an astounding analytic ability and an unbelievable memory. Her discomfort with people is palpable, and after watching two episodes you know how she’ll react when she’s in the company of others. You’re so in tune with her discomfort that you want to say something calm and reassuring to her.

After three episodes of the series’ first season, I realized how much I really liked Astrid’s character, how much I appreciated and admired her intellect and independence. I also noticed some of her habits felt familiar. She’s very organized and sequential, as am I. We’re pre-planners and rule followers. We adhere to protocol. Perhaps these characteristics put me somewhere on the autism spectrum. I don’t mind that, especially if I am as loyal and honest as Astrid is.

Copy and click the link below to see a preview of “Astrid.” Or…find the preview on You Tube.

Renée Bess is the author of five novels, a collection of her short stories, poems, and opinion essays, and the co-curator of the Goldie winning anthology, Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices From the Gay Bars. You can find her books at amazon.com, http://www.bellabooks.com, or order them from http://www.barnesandnoble.com, and independently owned bookstores. For more info, please visit her website: http://www.reneebess.com

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