Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#19: Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue)

on August 9, 2017

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is the 2017 selection of Oprah’s Book Club. The novel tells the story of Jende and Neni, Cameroonian nationals that have recently come to America, and their two children, Liomi and Timba. The novel is a family saga. It is an exploration of the modern American Dream. It is a chronicle of the difficulty of immigrants in the major cities of the United States.

Jende is a simple man. He has not completed a degree at a University. He has no marketable skills. He is living in New York and needs to provide for his wife and young child. (Timba is born while the couple resides in the United States about halfway through the novel.) Since he does not have a green card, Jende accepts a job as a chauffeur for the Edwards family, a upper crust Manhattan family led by Clark — a Wall Street mogul. Life is good for Jende and his family until the housing crisis hits and leads to the desemation of the Edwards family, which results in Jende losing his job. Without employment and without a green card, Jende finds himself facing a new struggle — the threat of deportation.

Struggling to keep his family fed, Jende begins to dream of returning to Cameroon. Neni, however, has no desire to see herself or her children leave the American Promise that she has now found. She turns to religious organizations for help. She considers divorcing Jende and re-marrying an American citizen for a few years in order to stay in this country, continue her education, and follow her dreams of becoming a pharmacist. Ultimately, Neni must accept the fact that the country she loves does not want her family to stay.

Behold the Dreamers is much more than a simple story about a Cameroonian family. The immigrant family is constantly contrasted with the the Edwards family and their struggles and successes as an American family. The reader learns much about the inner workings of ICE and the federal government’s expectations of immigrants. America is portrayed as a land of hope and opportunity, but also as a place that keeps those dreams just out of reach of all but the most elite. The novel, while beautifully written, is a challenging read that forces the reader to pull back the curtain and take an honest look at American immigration in the 21st century.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: