With his poem, ‘Je suis venu chercher du travail’ / ‘I Came to Look for Work’ by Francis Bebey, the author talks about the story of many immigrants. Similarly Fatou Diome, the Franco-Senegalese author tells us about immigrants in her book Le Ventre de l’Atlantique [The Belly of the Atlantic]. It is as if Diome read Bebey’s poem, and made it into a novel. Her story The Belly of the Atlantic details the complexity of immigration, the struggles of those who have made it to maintain the image of ‘greatness’ of the promised land, and the hope those left behind have on those gone to send for them. Some young boys who are struggling to make ends meet in their home country of Senegal, and dream of immigrating to France for a ‘better future, with a loved one in Europe sending money back home. The book gives a glimpse into the families left behind, the joys, anxiety, scare, struggles, and sometimes the reconstruction of families around the women who are left behind to raise the children alone. As we have seen in reality, many will attempt to get to Europe via the Sahara desert, or even through the Atlantic on shady canoes.
As Bebey said, the immigrant “has left everything, [his] wife, [his] kids.” Sometimes, the families never hear back from those who have gone, and their goodbyes were actually final, as Francis Bebey said “my poor mother was sorry to see me go.” Sometimes, the loved one who “had long days of travel” makes it safely, and sends money back, but never returns home and forms a new family in the new country. Sometimes, the loved ones make it to the new country, find jobs, make a living, and send for the rest of the family to join them back in the new country… This is a real struggle. The story of immigration in search of a job, of a better future, is a true struggle which rips apart some families, while strengthening others.
Once those who have left come back, they are often seen as “better”, “richer”, or “foreign”. As Diome says of the loved one who comes home, “I go home as a tourist in my own country, for I have become the other for the people I continue to call my family.” For the families who raised money for the loved one to be afforded to leave, leaving is synonymous with success and failure is not a possibility. “Leaving means having the courage necessary to go and give birth to one’s self.“