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The Suitcase

When you’re an immigrant, choosing what to bring with you from your homeland can be a serious dilemma.

The book Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures, by the French cartoonist Yvan Alagbé, is being released in English for the first time this year by New York Review Comics. Drawn between 1994 and 2011, Alagbé’s story uses stark, endlessly inventive black-and-white brushwork to explore love and race, oppression and escape.

In this excerpt, titled “The Suitcase,” the narrator, an immigrant to France, takes a brief trip “home” to Africa. When she returns to France, she attempts to bring along a suitcase filled to the brim with the foods she can’t find in Europe. (Alagbé says the story is based on an experience that his father’s wife had while traveling from Benin.) The same character and themes—alienation, homesickness, bureaucratic power—are treated quite seriously elsewhere in Yellow Negroes, but here they’re turned into an antic, discombobulating blend of farce and religious parable.

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