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Since I published my list of favorite books and podcasts, a few folks have asked about what I watch to decompress. The truth is that I watched way more shows than I wanted to in 2019 as a stress-reduction mechanism when I was alone. Plus, when I went to visit my family in New Jersey, it was the easiest thing to do together.

Exploring God’s Country

My goal for this year is to spend much more time exploring the wonderful environs in western Massachusetts (where we live) and in Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut, which are within a 15- to 60-minute driving distance. We live in a wonderful location where we can ski, bike ride, ride a hot air balloon, zip line, canoe, go white-water rafting or mountain coasting, hike, snowshoe, look for dinosaur prints, explore or swim in the river ways, visit farms, wander in the forests, etc. We have seen so little of it as a family. Franklin County is the recreation capital of Massachusetts and is, by far, the most beautiful part of the state. More time outdoors together is our goal for 2020!

Favorite Movies and Shows of 2019

In 2019, I discovered The Crown as a bingeworthy respite from work and other cerebral things. Surprisingly, I learned quite a bit of history from it also. My sister-in-law recommended The Handmaid’s Tale, and I got hooked on it. No need to comment on that as, I believe, most have heard of this politically intriguing series.

Below are some of our family favorites from last year. There are a few animated films that are simply exceptional. They make great adult movies and are also phenomenal family conversation starters.

  1. Years and Years -- This multigenerational, complex British sociopolitical, tech and futuristic drama starring Emma Thompson was my favorite short series of the year. A thoughtful colleague recommended it, and it took a couple of episodes for me to get into it. It is a bold social commentary set in the year 2030 and developed in ways that make that future frightfully possible. (I do think, at times, it tried too hard to be politically correct).

  1. Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? -- When my daughter (the girl) first asked if I had ever heard of the show, I started singing the song. However, when she put on the show, this gumshoe was a little disappointed. I did not recognize the 21st-century version. I’ll confess that I like the remake as much as the original, and I appreciate the girl-power theme.

  1. Chopped Junior and Kids’ Baking Championship -- The boy loves these shows! We watch them typically on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Sometimes the girl joins us. He loves to cook and bake. I prefer to watch baking rather than actually baking.

  1. The Breadwinner -- This incredible animated movie was a family favorite! It takes place in war-torn Afghanistan and addresses issues of political violence, gender inequality, child marriage, poverty and so much more. It is an inspiring story that helped our kids see how lucky they are.

  1. Ma Vie de Courgette or My Life as a Zucchini -- This is one of my favorite animated movies. It is such a great family film dealing with alcoholism, abandonment, foster care and so much more. It is complex and deals with difficult issues from the lens of children. It is also deeply inspiring.

  1. Mowgli -- This remake of The Jungle Book was our daughter’s favorite movie by far last year. In fact, after watching it, our daughter wanted us to call her Bhoots after the sweet and courageous albino wolf club -- the underdog of the movie. Our girl is an impassioned environmental justice and animal rights advocate, so this movie hit her like no other.

  1. American Son -- My favorite movie of 2019! Kerry Washington is amazing as a director and actress. While we never saw the Broadway show, once I learned that this was a movie, the whole family watched it. It is so real! It is also our United States of America. It deals with the issues and realities that we are constantly prepping our kids for as they are getting older. They have already seen some of it through us and their uncles.

  1. Stranger Things -- To be honest, I watched three episodes of this show with the family. I could not get into it, but the rest of my family loves it.

  1. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind -- Our boy read this book and chose it for us one night to watch as a family. Again, another opportunity for us all to be grateful to live in the U.S. and for what we have.

  1. Sembene! -- This documentary is made by Mount Holyoke professor and French department chair Samba Gadjigo. It tells the incredible story of the father of African cinema, Ousmane Sembene, a brilliant and flawed man -- like the rest of us.

  1. Lastly, Amy Schumer and Fadily Camara are so real and funny! Always great to have their stand-up comedy shows in the background when doing mindless work.

Yves Salomon-Fernández is president of Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts. She writes about women’s issues for Inside Higher Ed’s “University of Venus” from the perspective of a Generation Xer, a mom and leader of color. Her Twitter handle is @PrezYves.

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