Why there won’t be a Costa Rican version of my French book “Khadra”

As a French teacher, I often feel defeated when I see SOME language readers being poorly adapted from Spanish to French: same cover/illustrations but maybe with a different skin color (!), same story but transposed to a francophone region with little research, misrepresentation of that region or identities/groups in that region, and/or language convention or grammatical errors.

So, after writing my first language reader, Alice, I asked myself: can I adapt this story into Spanish ?

The story is about a teenage girl who is going to move to a different city and is trying to cope with this news. It seemed the plot was quite universal and therefore I gave myself permission to investigate adapting it. My team and I decided to adapt it to Costa Rica, a culture I lived in and married into. However, I am fully aware that no marital or personal “situation exempt me from the forces of racism” (Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility, 2018), so I welcome critique of this and any text I publish.

Next, I wrote the sequel Khadra. After finishing the story, I realized I could not adapt it to Costa Rica.

While not the focus of the story, two buildings collapse in Marseille, south of France, killing 8 people (based on true events). While it is OK to dismantle the myth that “developed” countries have “developed” infrastructure, I knew I could not make a building collapse in Costa Rica without reinforcing the stereotype that “developing” countries have unreliable infrastructure.

So, that’s it. Perhaps I will re-adapt the whole series to Spain instead, or perhaps I will let it be. But I can’t adapt Khadra to Costa Rica.

I am not making a blanket statement that one should never adapt a language reader to another language/culture, I am simply making the case for taking a hard look at each story case by case before proceeding.

4 comments

  1. I get this for sure. One of the things I love so much about Khadra is how important the place is to the story.

  2. Cécile, thank you for your work. I would so like a reader with a positive representation of a girl and a positive message for French I. I am afraid Alice might be too advanced.

    • I understand. Alice and Khadra are definitely not beginner books, though I have had reports of some late level 1 reading them. They are better suited for level 2-3 students who have been exposed to natural language in context. I personally find it difficult to convey the complexity of my characters with early beginner language. So, I apologize for not being able to meet your need.

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