Written by Elana Carroll

I learned I was black in America
by Elana Carroll

I learned I was black in America by Elana Carroll

I became black in America. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Angèle Kingué is a French novelist from Cameroon, West Africa.

At the age of two, Kingué’s mother passed away and she went to live with her aunt until things settled down at home. When she returned, her father had met another woman and was soon to be married. Kingué recalled knowing five languages by the time she was five years old because languages vary by village in Cameroon, so living several different places as a young child meant she had to continually learn the language spoken there. She attended a private Catholic school where she spoke French, which is when her love for the language began.

She attended the University of Yaoundé as an undergraduate student and then continued on to the University of North Wales to complete her master’s degree in Applied Linguistics. Kingué moved on to Penn State University to get a Ph. D. in French and Pedagogy. After teaching at Penn State for several years, she moved to Lewisburg, PA to teach French and Francophone studies at Bucknell University where she still teaches today.

Kingué began writing short stories for her French students so they could more easily understand the material, as she did not like the readings that were in French textbooks.

She read her stories at a conference for French professors where a Canadian publisher just happened to be in attendance. Everyone liked them so much that the publisher approached her about publishing her stories. She has since written five short novels in French and is planning to publish more this year.

Kingué recalled not experiencing race in any way until she came to America for her studies, attributing that to growing up with people that looked the same as her. She also noted that in countries such as Cameroon, it is not the color of your skin that makes you unique, but the language that you speak. Coming to America and experiencing race was something Kingué had to learn later in her life and, from there, how to handle it.

She paraphrased the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie when she said, “I discovered I was black in America.”

Kingué lives in State College, PA with her husband and son but travels to France for months at a time to oversee the French foreign exchange program run through Bucknell University.