Imbolo Mbue created a great novel on immigration and the American Dream in her 2016 Behold the Dreamers. I admit that I only came to read this book because of a reading challenge. Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge number 5 was to read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. Behold the Dreamers was my choice for the challenge. It’s not a book I would have naturally grabbed to read. But that is the point of the challenge.
I found the book to be wonderful. The central character of Jende Jonga grapples with the financial crisis as Lehman Brothers collapses. It’s not that Jende, an immigrant from Cameroon, was working for Lehman Brothers. Jende had started driving a cab to support his family while waiting for his asylum application to be approved. His wife is with him on a student visa.
Jende knows that he may have to return to Cameroon if his application is unsuccessful. He has left that country for the hope of prosperity in America. Jende is joyous at being in America and believes in the American dream that hard work will lead to success.
His hard work allows him to move from driving a cab to working as a personal chauffeur for a Lehman Brothers executive. As you might expect, problems arise.
The writing is spectacular. The characters are wonderful. The depiction of the American dream and immigration are thought provoking. Behold the Dreamers will be an excellent addition to your reading list.