Young women are breaking the silence of French immigrants

When the writer Kaoutar Harchi grew up as a little girl in Strasbourg two decades ago, her teacher gave her a book with the inscription "To my little Arab".
"It shocked me deeply and I have never forgotten it," said Harchi, now 34 and a successful writer and sociologist in Paris.
"It was a way of associating myself with my origins, of saying that I wasn't French."
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In France, accounting for its colonial past is delayed.
It is spearheaded by young writers, filmmakers, and researchers like Harchi who question the ancient myth that the millions who live after 2nd citizenship.
"France was a place in the 1950s and 1960s where if you were an Algerian and took the subway you stayed close to the wall because you were afraid someone would push you," said Salima Tenfiche, researcher at the Paris University.
Last weekend marked the 60th anniversary of the Paris massacre, when dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Algerian independence protesters were killed by police, many of them drowned in the Seine - an incident erased from national memory for decades.
The first generation of immigrants responded by building a wall of silence.
"All these stories, this racism, these humiliations - they couldn't talk to their children about them. There was a lot of shame and suffering. Many never found their place in society," Tenfiche said.
- Language of exile -
Now a number of writers and artists are helping to tear down that wall.
Lilia Hassaine's "Soleil Amer" (Sun Soul), Alice Zeniter's "The Art of Losing", Faiza Guene's "La Discretion" - all are inspired by the arrival of their Algerian families in the 1960s by writers in their thirties.
Or Leila Slimani's bestseller “The Land of Others”, which tells how her Moroccan grandfather met her French grandmother.
"For the first generation, they had to remain discreet to survive. For the second, who had witnessed their parents' victims, the question of memory was secondary. It is the third generation that is sufficiently distant from this painful story is." to address these issues, "said Tenfiche.
Lina Soualem, 31, has just released the documentary "Leur Algerie" (Your Algeria), which looks at her grandparents' experiences in France in the 1950s.
"We never talked about these things because silence was the norm. A silence that was passed on from generation to generation, as if the language of exile was ultimately silence," she told AFP.
Her grandfather, largely mute by the film, finally opens up when Soualem returns to Algeria and finds her family's graves - something none of her relatives have done since she came to France.
He had worked in a knife factory in Clermont-Ferrand.
The city is world famous for its knives, but she couldn't find any pictures of him in the city museum because the Algerian workers never made one.
“It's not about forgiveness or reconciliation. It's about memory - the fact that we can finally talk about these people who have always been forgotten in French national history, ”said Soualem.
The same goes for Hassaine, whose "Soleil Amer" was nominated for the highest French Goncourt literary prize.
"The issue is not so much Algeria - it is awakening, uprooting," said Hassaine, 30.
“I wanted to talk about France and the way the first generation of immigrants was treated - racism. But I didn't mean to make it mad. I just wanted to tell the story as it was, because it was like that. "A beautiful story too."
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