Out of Africa, Hot in France

When Fatou Diome handed a copy of her first novel to her beloved grandmother in Senegal, the response was tepid. For the illiterate older woman, stories are something you tell, not write. "She's happy for me," Diome explains, "but she doesn't really understand." The French, however, know a literary sensation when they see one. Le Ventre de l'Atlantique (The Belly of the Atlantic), a bittersweet account of immigration and exile, is currently at the top of the French best-seller lists. The French daily Le Figaro gushed: "There are a thousand clichés about immigration, and in one novel...

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