Author: Imbolo Mbue
Publisher: Random House
I have lots of feelings about Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. I have been drawn to #immigrantnarratives of late, and this book did not let me down. Behold the Dreamers tells the story of Jende, who moves to America from Cameroon on a visitor’s visa, but has no intention of returning to Cameroon. He bought and swallowed the American Dream Kool-Aid in one swallow. The rest of his family arrives soon after: his wife Neni on a student visa, determined to be a pharmacist, and his son Liomi. Neni also has dreams of America being Land of the Better. Jende lands a job as a chauffeur for a Big Man on Wall Street, Clrk Edwards, and though the hours are long, the pay is more than he ever dreamed and he is happy. But then, the financial crisis of 2008 happened and Jende realizes that the juice of the American Dream is not worth the squeeze. As the banks and the economy fall apart, Jende’s rose colored glasses break and he finds himself facing deportation. Riveting stuff, truly. Mbue has a sharp ear for dialogue. And she mixes in research about the financial crisis, the depression, Obama’s ascension to presidency, and the housing market collapse well. The contrasts between the haves and the have nots, the established and the developing, the natural citizen and the third world immigrant all come together for the greater good of this narrative.