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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Monday, November 12, 2012

The French Connection; American and African Experiences in France

Illustration by Brian Stauffer
My 16-year-old daughter is African-American; a term that is increasing fluid and in recent years not the exclusive descriptor of descendants of the enslaved population of the United States.  I am African-American, the daughter of southern migrants, and my husband was from Cote d’Ivoire, in West Africa.  My children were born and raised in Cote d’Ivoire during their early years before our relocation back to my home in the States.  So, my daughter, Sojourner, is indeed African-American in all of its nuanced and changing and intriguing manifestations. 

This past summer, Sojourner visited and studied in Paris, France; a trip she planned for and anticipated with all of the idealism of a wide-eyed, gushy teen girl. Though she had an amazing journey studying the Parisian Architecture and the expatriates who called the City of Lights home, she was not prepared for the many occasions she encountered the overt hostility of white French people who always initially perceived her as being West African, which she is.  But when she was overheard speaking  whether in English or in French with her clearly American accent, this hostility immediately dissipated and she was always asked if she was American in a pleasant manner as much as the French can muster.  Her standard reply in perfect French was, “I am who you think I am and much more.”  

Over the past 30 years, significant numbers of people from France’s former colonies in Africa have settled in France and the French find this very unsettling as my little girl discovered.  Over the past few months, my daughter and I have discussed and read a few books on the subject on Americans and Africans and their experiences in France.  On December 1, 2012, a group in Philadelphia is getting together to discuss one of the books we read; Three Strong Women by Marie N’Diaye.  Do join us.  

Here is a  link to amazing books on this subject.  Read of the experiences of Angela Davis, Susan Sontag and Jackie Kennedy as young women in Paris as well as that of  Ivoirian writer Bernard Dadié and much more.

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