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A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream-the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award • A New York Times Notable Book • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award • An ALA Notable Boo A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream-the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award • A New York Times Notable Book • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award • An ALA Notable Book NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Chicago Public Library • BookPage • Refinery29 • Kirkus Reviews Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty-and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses' summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' façades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende's job-even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.


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A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream-the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award • A New York Times Notable Book • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award • An ALA Notable Boo A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream-the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award • A New York Times Notable Book • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award • An ALA Notable Book NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Chicago Public Library • BookPage • Refinery29 • Kirkus Reviews Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty-and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses' summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' façades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende's job-even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

30 review for [[[Imbolo Mbue Behold the Dreamers Audiobook]]]

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    America was passing her by. New York City was passing her by. Bridges and billboards bearing smiling people were passing her by. Skyscrapers and brownstones were rushing by. Fast. Too fast. Forever. 3 1/2 stars. Ah, this book was a pleasant surprise. I picked Behold the Dreamers for my September Book of the Month read, mostly because none of the others appealed to me. I hadn't any previous plans to read it but, as it happens, it turned out to be an enjoyable read. Full of sadness, hope and - America was passing her by. New York City was passing her by. Bridges and billboards bearing smiling people were passing her by. Skyscrapers and brownstones were rushing by. Fast. Too fast. Forever. 3 1/2 stars. Ah, this book was a pleasant surprise. I picked Behold the Dreamers for my September Book of the Month read, mostly because none of the others appealed to me. I hadn't any previous plans to read it but, as it happens, it turned out to be an enjoyable read. Full of sadness, hope and - of course - dreamers. It's quite an understated book for the most part. Quiet and character-driven. Set just after the economic crisis of 2007/2008, we see the American Dream from two different perspectives - that of Jende Jonga and his family, Cameroonian immigrants desperately trying to obtain a green card and stay in America, and that of the Edwards family, wealthy upper-class New Yorkers who show the cracks in this idea of paradise held by immigrants. The theme is an old one - the fragility of the American Dream - and yet this Cameroonian family breathe new life into it. The author herself is a Cameroonian immigrant living in the United States, and so is able to weave the Jonga family with firsthand insight and honesty; the result being characters that come to life on the page and make you remember them. There's an undercurrent of sadness to the whole book. Jende is such a wide-eyed, hopeful dreamer who longs to bring his wife and son to a place he considers a land of opportunity. At a time when animosity towards immigrants has been fostered by the likes of Donald Trump, this book really strikes a chord. The Jonga family are distinctly West-African in their ideals and cultural practices, and yet their desire to give their son the best life possible is a heartbreakingly universal one. All of the characters are treated with such love and care by the author. Members of both the Jonga and Edwards families are multi-layered and sensitively portrayed. Cultural differences and issues of privilege are explored - for example, the Edwards' oldest son is anti-establishment and longs to abandon law school and head to India, whereas Jende believes the opportunity to become a lawyer is one of the greatest things he could give his son. It's a painfully realistic book, as all good books about the "American Dream" tend to be. Sometimes I wanted a bit more from it - a lot of the story and themes of race/culture are revealed through conversations and the plot itself is very... simple. Though perhaps that is a strength too. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store

  2. 5 out of 5

    Felice Laverne

    “You think I don’t want to remain in America, too? You think I came to America so that I can leave? I work as a servant to people, driving them all over, the whole day, sometimes the whole week, answering yes sir, yes madam, bowing down even to a little child. For what, Neni? What pride are you talking about? I lower myself more than many men would ever lower themselves. What do you think I do it for? For you, for me. Because I want us to say in America! But if America says they don’t want us in “You think I don’t want to remain in America, too? You think I came to America so that I can leave? I work as a servant to people, driving them all over, the whole day, sometimes the whole week, answering yes sir, yes madam, bowing down even to a little child. For what, Neni? What pride are you talking about? I lower myself more than many men would ever lower themselves. What do you think I do it for? For you, for me. Because I want us to say in America! But if America says they don’t want us in their country, you think I’m going to keep on begging them for the rest of my life?...Never. Not for one day…” Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers had its highs and lows. I’d like to first say that I love that Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. Rather than telling a story from hearsay and secondhand experiences, she was able to paint a realistic portrait of a modern-day Cameroonian family. The inflection in their tone and dialogue, their traditions, they all came through brilliantly here. Yet this, unfortunately, wasn’t enough for me to give this one high praise. Behold the Dreamers was a wonderful title for a work that told a story of exactly that: a family with dreams in their eyes and a determination to fight for a good life in America the Great. The writing was simple; particularly for the first large chunk, 40% or so. It was as simple as a burlap sack, and it was a bit too rudimentary to really pull me in. It definitely DID NOT strike me as literary fiction, which some have labeled it as. On the other hand, I will say that it was culturally enlightening to read about the traditions of the Cameroonians, to recognize the cadence in their voices as different from those of their American counterparts. That dialogue between the immigrants read more jauntily, more authentically, than any of the other dialogue in this novel, the only thing that seemed dazzlingly organic, and that was a let-down for me. There were assuming plot leaps that lurched the timeline forward in a way that made me feel I’d missed something, where I, as a reader, missed the growth of the characters and how their bonds with one another grew or were sullied, and that made the read less enthralling. It made me invest less in it. This wasn’t like plot twists that kept you guessing—this isn’t some mystery or thriller—but major life decisions that the reader had no warning were even possible, even a thought process in the characters’ minds, that just tumbled into the plot. That, to me, was a sure sign of the author’s inability to weave a plot with finesse. It felt like I was on a bumpy car trip, feeling every pothole and speed bump. Definitely not a luxury car ride. And then there was the fact that it took way too long for any meaningful action to transpire. This novel was set on the backdrop of the collapse of the housing bubble--the protagonist's employer worked in a high-up position and Lehman Bros--but I literally didn't even notice that this was part of the plot until after I finished reading it. It was stated, yes, but it wasn't made an integral enough part of the plot to make me feel the tension. By the time I looked at my counter to see that I was over 40% of the way through this novel, I was shocked at how little I was invested in the characters, at how much valuable space had gone to waste in telling the story thus far. There was a high point where the action picked up and it looked like character evolution would take place—like Neni would fight the traditions of her upbringing and stand on her own, like she would go to bat and battle her hardest for her dreams, which is what she came to America to do. But then I landed with a heavy flop at that ending and literally said to myself, “Oh, I’d better not turn this page for this to be it!” (Literally, imagine me sitting at my computer, finger poised over the right arrow saying, “Oh, this had better not be it!” only to find that when I did turn the page, that was it.) (view spoiler)[Without totally spoiling the plot for anyone, I'll say that this one ended with the characters not having fully transformed. A cliche bow-tie ending it was not, but it was still a deeply unsatisfying way to go out, my goodness. (hide spoiler)] Still, there were a few places where the writing dazzled. Where it popped and sizzled and hit the right notes like here: “For the first time in a long love affair, she was afraid he would beat her. She was almost certain he would beat her. And if he had, she would have known that it was not her Jende who was beating her but a grotesque being created by the sufferings of an American immigrant life.” (view spoiler)[But if there’s one thing that I hate in a read—that many hate, I’d assume—it’s characters who succumb. (hide spoiler)] I love a realistic novel--with authentic characters--that shows us that life is not always bright, life isn’t just one happy Facebook post after another—but I also want to be able to root for characters even in their short-fallings, and I found that I couldn’t always do that here. So, in the end, the Dreamers only managed to squeak out 3 stars *** I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Random House, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. FOLLOW ME HERE: Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Get a Copy of My Book | Book Editing, Author Coaching, Submit Your Book to Me

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    This novel resonates with contemporary social and political issues dominating in the US, Europe and Australia, where there is a growing and visceral tide of hatred and rage against immigrants. Imbolo Mbue has written an illuminating book on the immigrant experience amidst the hollowness of the American dream set in New York. The story is told from the perspectives of Jende Jongo, and his wife, Nemi, who are from Cameroon dreaming of a better future in their new home. They have a son, Liomi, for This novel resonates with contemporary social and political issues dominating in the US, Europe and Australia, where there is a growing and visceral tide of hatred and rage against immigrants. Imbolo Mbue has written an illuminating book on the immigrant experience amidst the hollowness of the American dream set in New York. The story is told from the perspectives of Jende Jongo, and his wife, Nemi, who are from Cameroon dreaming of a better future in their new home. They have a son, Liomi, for whom they have high hopes. The stage is set for an exploration of their precarious lives buffeted by economic and social forces beyond their control as the 2008 financial collapse is described in terms of its human cost. Jende is working as a cabbie when he lands the dream job of chauffeur to Lehman's executive, Clark Edward, who demands Jende keeps his secrets and give him his absolute loyalty. The two men become close and Clark's wife, Cindy, gives his wife, Nemi, a job as a housekeeper. Cindy confides her thoughts and secrets to Nemi who is hard working and hoping to become a pharmacist. We are given an in depth insight into the laborious and costly process of trying to acquire a green card. The spectacular collapse of Lehman has enormous repercussions on the Edward family. Clark loses his job and the strain on his marriage results in its collapse. Jende and Nemi find themselves with divided loyalties and caught up in the slipstream of these events, and there is a simultaneous similarity as their future comes under threat. We observe the contrasts between a family of privilege and a family with little and the power dynamic in the relationship between the two. We see the yearnings for home, Cameroon, whilst trying to fit into a new home, the eternal immigrant heart caught between two worlds. The novel perhaps underscores the naivete of the dreams of the immigrant given the harsh reality of the world. Mbue touches on the issues of race, culture, violence, pain, and the impact of male decisionmaking on women. The writing is beautiful at times although the characters and plot feel a little uneven on occasion. However, this takes nothing away from a novel that is a timely and pertinent story that carries an authentic picture of an immigrant experience. The characters of Jende and Nemi are complex and captured my interest easily. I loved the portrayal of their home country and their connections with it. A wonderful and insightful book that I recommend highly. Thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    Although the novel takes place in 2008 , even now eight years since then , this is an extremely relevant story given this current political discourse on the immigration issue. Jende Jonga in efforts to get his green card explains to Clark Edwards, in his interview for a job as chauffeur why he wants to be in America: "Everyone wants to come to America, sir. Everyone. To be in this country, sir. To live in this country. Ah! It's the greatest thing in the world, Mr.Edwards...Because ...because in Although the novel takes place in 2008 , even now eight years since then , this is an extremely relevant story given this current political discourse on the immigration issue. Jende Jonga in efforts to get his green card explains to Clark Edwards, in his interview for a job as chauffeur why he wants to be in America: "Everyone wants to come to America, sir. Everyone. To be in this country, sir. To live in this country. Ah! It's the greatest thing in the world, Mr.Edwards...Because ...because in my country, sir," Jende said ...for you to become somebody, you have to be born somebody first. You do not come from a family with a name, forget it. That is just how it is, sir. Someone like me, what can I ever become in a country like Cameroon? I came from nothing. No name. No money, my father is a poor man. Cameroon has nothing-" This dream to stay in America for Jende and his wife Neni , a dream to become somebody and have a good life for their children is the center of this story but yet it becomes about a lot more as Jende and Neni's future become so tied to Clark Edwards and his wife Cindy. They get pulled into the personal affairs of Clark and Cindy , become their confessors of sorts , telling their inner most feelings and pasts . Yet Jende and Neni have their own burdens, trying to keep from getting deported and having to use some of their savings to help their family in Cameroon. But then the burdens become greater as they are asked by Clark and Cindy to keep their secrets which they must in order to keep their jobs. So much of making their dream come true is dependent on money and so much of their dream is to have money . The timing of the story taking place as Clark's employer , Lehman goes bankrupt reflects on a larger scale what people will do for money. There are a number of acts of desperation that happen here, making the characters less than likable even though I felt sorry for their helplessness at times. I learned a good bit about the difficulties of immigrant families and the process of trying to stay in this country. I would like to have seen Jende and Neni's story play out without the link to the Lehman bankruptcy. I was surprised at the ending but not sure that it could have gone any other way. Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Random House.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    "Different things are important to different people." Behold the Dreamers captured me from the very first chapter. I was actually planning on picking this up closer to its release date, but decided at the last minute to just read a line or two to see if it would work in my favor or not. And wow, did it impress for the first half. This tells the tale of a family of three living in Harlem, New York: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant, has come to the United States to provide a better life for hims "Different things are important to different people." Behold the Dreamers captured me from the very first chapter. I was actually planning on picking this up closer to its release date, but decided at the last minute to just read a line or two to see if it would work in my favor or not. And wow, did it impress for the first half. This tells the tale of a family of three living in Harlem, New York: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. “As often as she could, she sat in the library to do her homework, or went to office hours to hound professors for advice on what she needed to do to get better grades so she could get into a great pharmacy school. She was going to make herself proud, make Jende proud of his wife, make Liomi proud of his mother. She’d waited too long to become something, and now, at thirty-three, she finally had, or was close enough to having, everything she’s ever wanted in life.” It's really been a while since a book made me think, "just one more chapter." But Imbolo Mbue weaved together such an intricate story that I was left feeling truly attached to this family. I was rooting for Nini whenever we got to read snippets of her studying. I felt truly inspired to start studying myself after finishing the book. And I just have so much admiration for her determination... I think I highlighted one too many parts of this book because of it. (And - fun fact - we both hate the smell of coffee!!) It also discussed the topic of immigration in a really eye-opening way: “Listen to me,” Bubakar said, somewhat impatiently. “As far as Immigration is concerned, there are many things that are illegal and many that are gray, and by ‘gray’ I mean the things that are illegal but which the government doesn’t want to spend time worrying about. You understand me, abi? My advice to someone like you is to always stay close to the gray area and keep yourself and your family safe. Stay away from any place where you run into police—that’s the advice I give to you and to all the young black men in this country. The police is for the protection of white people, my brother. Maybe black women and black children sometimes, but not black men. Never black men. Black men and police are palm oil and water.” And not only immigration, but a lot of topics were handled so well—I felt like the author took everything I didn't know how to articulate and put it on paper. And those types of books - the kind that open up your heart and educate you - will stay with me for a long time. But circling back to the plot of this story, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Everything is seemingly going okay for the Jongas— Jende's immigration court date seems to be years from now, Neni is acing her precalculus finals thanks to the help of her instructor, and Liomi is doing well in his classes. But then the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. And Jende and Neni have to stay strong in order to keep their family together. “Please let’s not think like that,” Neni said. “You have a job for now, eh? As long as we have Mr. Edwards, we have a job. Are we not better off today than all those people walking out of Lehman? Look at them. I just feel so sorry for them. But then, we don’t know what’s on the road coming for us, too. We just don’t know. So let’s only be happy that today we were spared.” They continuously encourage each other to be hopeful, to believe that they would one day realize the dream of becoming Americans. But everything was about to change, one way or another, for everyone in this country. So, as great as those 100-200 first pages were, the ending really, really bothered me. I hated how horrendous Jende’s actions were and was even more appalled when he acted as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. Just...his sudden change of character towards the end didn’t sit well with me. And Neni’s hate towards other girls threw me out of the story as well. “Cindy’s things she planned to reserve for special occasions. She would wear them to weddings and anniversaries to show those girls that even though she had returned home and was living among them, she was not one of them—she was now a woman of class, with real designer items, and none of them could compete with her.” Overall, a great introduction to a compelling family, but with a number of problematic behaviours and flaws while unraveling their story. ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 stars *Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying Behold the Dreamers, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!* This review and more can be found on my blog.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Sometimes, a novel arrives at just the right moment. Here we are in a crater of xenophobia. One of our presidential candidates is foaming at the mouth about “extreme vetting” for immigrants. But then along comes “Behold the Dreamers,” a debut novel by a young woman from Cameroon that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse. While another author might have played that imperative title sarcastically, for Imbolo Mbue, “Behol Sometimes, a novel arrives at just the right moment. Here we are in a crater of xenophobia. One of our presidential candidates is foaming at the mouth about “extreme vetting” for immigrants. But then along comes “Behold the Dreamers,” a debut novel by a young woman from Cameroon that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse. While another author might have played that imperative title sarcastically, for Imbolo Mbue, “Behold the Dreamers” is a kind of angelic annunciation of hope, which ultimately makes her story even more poignant. After a childhood of extreme poverty, Mbue came to this country in 1998 — recent enough to retain the optimism of an immigrant but long enough to understand our national schizophrenia about foreigners. Her novel is about a family from Cameroon living in Harlem on the eve of striking disruption. The United States is about to elect its first black president and descend into the Great Recession. But Jende Jonga, the hero of this tale, has his mind set on only one thing: becoming a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a hotshot Lehman Brothers executive. Jende and his wife, Neni, have been preparing for the interview for days. They’ve spent hours googling “the one question they ask at every job interview.” With the help of a volunteer at the library, they’ve written up a résumé that describes Jende as “a man of grand accomplishments”: farmer, street cleaner. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert... To watch my interview with Imbolo Mbue at The Washington Post, click here: https://www.facebook.com/poststyle/vi...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 I went back and forth, trying to decide whether or not I liked any of these characters, except form the young children of course who were victims of circumstances they could not control. Was pretty sure I liked Jende for most of the book until he did something I abhorred. Nein too does something, out of desperation, but I did not much like her for it. The Edwards, Cindy and Clark were pretty much representative of the privileged culture, or at least how they are usually portrayed. I did even 3.5 I went back and forth, trying to decide whether or not I liked any of these characters, except form the young children of course who were victims of circumstances they could not control. Was pretty sure I liked Jende for most of the book until he did something I abhorred. Nein too does something, out of desperation, but I did not much like her for it. The Edwards, Cindy and Clark were pretty much representative of the privileged culture, or at least how they are usually portrayed. I did eventually sympathize with them all for various reasons and in the end that didn't matter to me so much as the story. If it shows nothing else it definitely showed the disconnect between immigrants, the privileged and even those who were born here. So a worthy and timely read, especially here in the USA where one of our presidential nominees is running on a platform of fear, hatred and bigotry. This book shows how tenuous the hold on their lives are for some. Lawyer fees, trying to get papers to stay in this country, work toward a better for themselves and their families. The author set this just before the collapse of our economy in 2008 and in fact Clark Edward works for Lehman Brothers as an executive, as he loses his job, his marriage disintegrates as does the future of Jende's family. Jobs are now scarce, college educated people willing to take the jobs the immigrants once occupied. So many lost their houses and their livelihoods. I enjoyed reading about the difference in their lives between New York, living in Harlem and Cameroon, where they are from. The ending surprised me somewhat, well I didn't expect the direction it took. But, for this family it made sense. This novel is not perfect and like most probably doesn't reflect all but it does give the reader an inside view of one such immigrant family. A well told and thought out story, this the author's first. ARC from publisher.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    It genuinely surprises me that so many of my friends here on Goodreads seem to have been rather lukewarm on this book, because Behold the Dreamers was a thoroughly engrossing, powerful, emotional experience for me. This is the story of a family who has emigrated from Cameroon. Jende and Neni Jonga, along with their young son, come to New York in 2007 in search of the American Dream. She enrolls in college, with the expectation that she can eventually become a pharmacist; he secures a job as the c It genuinely surprises me that so many of my friends here on Goodreads seem to have been rather lukewarm on this book, because Behold the Dreamers was a thoroughly engrossing, powerful, emotional experience for me. This is the story of a family who has emigrated from Cameroon. Jende and Neni Jonga, along with their young son, come to New York in 2007 in search of the American Dream. She enrolls in college, with the expectation that she can eventually become a pharmacist; he secures a job as the chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. This position gives him a unique view of the Edwards family, themselves a very fractured take on the American Dream. Lehman brothers is teetering on the brink, and the stress is weighing heavily not just on Clark but also on his wife Cindy and their two sons: would-be hippie twentysomething Vince and wide-eyed nine-year-old Mighty. Jende is privy to much of that stress and he has to try to keep it from reaching into his own family, whose status in this country is far from certain. Imbolo Mbue tells her story from the perspectives of both Jende and Neni, though it’s not a strictly “alternating POV” kind of book. Mbue captures these two voices brilliantly, illustrating the hope and the fear, the idealism and the naiveté that comes with being an immigrant in America at the outset of the Great Recession. I was so completely invested in these two that my heart was in my throat for much of the book. The Edwards family sometimes feel like a bit of a clichéd portrayal of upper class white privilege, but it still seems clear that Mbue holds a lot of empathy for them Though it’s set in the last decade, this book holds quite a bit of pertinence in 2016. Immigration remains a huge topic in the US right now, and there’s huge swathes of xenophobia all over our country. Knowing how hard it is to start a new life in America, it’s sometimes hard for me to imagine why someone might want to—especially people of color. Mbue offers a reminder that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, highlighting the sacrifices and the impossible, often desperate, decisions that immigrants are faced with. Mbue really forced me to walk around in the shoes of her characters and think about what it must be like to be in their position. It was a really intense experience for me; I got to the last fifty pages and I couldn’t stop sobbing. So maybe I’m alone here, but I absolutely adored this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    3+ stars. There were many things I liked about Behold the Dreamer, but in significant ways it ended up feeling like a missed opportunity. Imbolo Mbue tells the story of married couple Jende and Nemi, who have moved from Cameroon to New York City to pursue their dream of a better life in America. The story is told from their alternating points of view. Jende works as a chauffeur for a high finance guy who works on Wall Street in 2008 at the time of the financial collapse, and Nemi works odd jobs 3+ stars. There were many things I liked about Behold the Dreamer, but in significant ways it ended up feeling like a missed opportunity. Imbolo Mbue tells the story of married couple Jende and Nemi, who have moved from Cameroon to New York City to pursue their dream of a better life in America. The story is told from their alternating points of view. Jende works as a chauffeur for a high finance guy who works on Wall Street in 2008 at the time of the financial collapse, and Nemi works odd jobs and goes to college hoping ultimately to become a pharmacist. The set up is really good, and Jende and Nemi are strong multi-dimmensional characters. Mbue conveys a strong sense of the Cameroon they left, what led them to leave their home, their continuous financial struggle to live in New York and the precariousness of their attempt to gain legal status in the US. But there were many ways in which the story lacks the depth its set up promised. Most notably, much of the story is taken up with the relationship Jende and Nemi develop with Jende's employer and his family, and that aspect of the story felt overly dramatic, cartoonish and ultimately a bit too sentimental. While Jende and Nemi are rich characters when they deal with each other and other members of the Cameroon community in New York, they seemed to lose dimension when dealing with this wealthy Manhattan family and the family itself felt like it was composed of types rather than real people. I felt that Mbue could have done so much more with the dynamics in the relationships between these characters. Having said that, the strengths of Mbue's first novel are sufficient to make me want to read her next novel. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Thank you to my friend Lisi who gave me a dozen books - that she herself hadn’t read - but were on my TBR list on Goodreads. The books came with ‘red dots’ on the binding. She only wants the red-dots book back if I’m ‘sure’ she will love it. YES, LISI.... “you’ll love this book. I’ve read other books about The Lehman Brothers- and the global financial crisis- ( and lived through it) - I’ve read many fiction stories about immigration.... but this was the first book where I’ve read a novel of the tw Thank you to my friend Lisi who gave me a dozen books - that she herself hadn’t read - but were on my TBR list on Goodreads. The books came with ‘red dots’ on the binding. She only wants the red-dots book back if I’m ‘sure’ she will love it. YES, LISI.... “you’ll love this book. I’ve read other books about The Lehman Brothers- and the global financial crisis- ( and lived through it) - I’ve read many fiction stories about immigration.... but this was the first book where I’ve read a novel of the two topics combined. The brilliant combo opened my awareness into corners of our country - and deeper insights into the immigrant experience than most ‘all’ other books I’ve read on immigration. Imbolo Mbue wrote an outstanding novel - a strong 5 stars for me: Oprah pick or not —but I can sure understand the choice. The book reveals the realities of the American Dream -and re- think our beliefs. Jende Jonga and his wife Neni- the African couple who worked for Clark and Cindy Clark —( Clark being executive for Lehman Brothers) - shines the light on many drawbacks in the United States. It was very easy to have empathy for Jende and Neni. Their future looked scary after the Collapse of Lehman Brothers. I also deeply cared for their happiness together and for their child. It was a little harder to feel that same empathy for the wealthy American couple..... but actually - in the end I felt empathy for them too. Humanity is humanity. Painful disappointments - and challenges affect people of every race - class - and color. Wonderful storytelling-with great characters - with many trials - tribulations - and triumphs. Page turning! Relevant complex issues! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    4.5 Stars Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, “Behold the Dreamers” takes a look at the immigrant dream of life in the United States, with promises of bigger, better than wherever you came from. Undoubtedly, there can be truth to that, but what happens to that dream when it seems elusive, out of reach or comes undone? I was hooked right from the start by the story of Jende Jongo, formerly of Limbe, Cameroon, finding a dream job as a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman Brothers, in the year 2007. He’s been 4.5 Stars Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, “Behold the Dreamers” takes a look at the immigrant dream of life in the United States, with promises of bigger, better than wherever you came from. Undoubtedly, there can be truth to that, but what happens to that dream when it seems elusive, out of reach or comes undone? I was hooked right from the start by the story of Jende Jongo, formerly of Limbe, Cameroon, finding a dream job as a chauffeur for an executive at Lehman Brothers, in the year 2007. He’s been driving a cab in NYC, but better pay and a better car to drive are not the only thing that makes this job such a break, by driving a Lehman Brothers executive Jende feels he has achieved a point of pride in his work. There’s humor in Mbue’s writing about the everyday life in America, the thought process of the shopping experience in America, coming from an environment where negotiating prices is the norm. There are also the astonishments of the new immigrants experience with the availability of so much in one place, and the availability of the “finer” places to shop for clothing. There’s also a heavy dose of the reality how many difficulties may be encountered by those who come looking for a better life in America. As Dorothy comes to realize, “there’s no place like home” when she’s in Oz, but then back at Auntie Em’s she dreams of life in Oz … A heart divided. Jende’ heart is at odds between the things he has come to love about this new life, the things he misses about life in Limbe, his family there. Neni can’t bear to think of leaving everything they’ve worked for. Charming, truly compelling story, “Behold the Dreamers” is a wonderful debut novel about where we sometimes choose to call home. Publication Date: 23 August 2016 Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group, NetGalley, and to the author, Imbolo Mbue

  12. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    4.5★ - A debut? You’re kidding! Cameroon, where some families are so poor, we’re told, they give their children away. It’s supposedly a win-win. The kids have a better life with a wealthier family, and the poor family has one less mouth to feed. Sound appealing? No? I didn’t think so, and neither did Jende Jonga. To escape poverty, Jende went to America as a visitor, overstayed his visa, brought his wife and young son over, and now keeps trying to get ‘papers’ so he won’t be deported. They live i 4.5★ - A debut? You’re kidding! Cameroon, where some families are so poor, we’re told, they give their children away. It’s supposedly a win-win. The kids have a better life with a wealthier family, and the poor family has one less mouth to feed. Sound appealing? No? I didn’t think so, and neither did Jende Jonga. To escape poverty, Jende went to America as a visitor, overstayed his visa, brought his wife and young son over, and now keeps trying to get ‘papers’ so he won’t be deported. They live in a tiny, unpleasant fifth-floor walk-up in Harlem, and they all sleep in one bed. But – they are in America and their son is going to an American school! “‘Columbus Circle is the center of Manhattan. Manhattan is the center of New York. New York is the center of America, and America is the center of the world. So we are sitting in the center of the world, right?’” Cameroon isn’t a war zone, so their dream is pretty simple – good jobs, good schools, nice home. Neni is studying chemistry at a community college, dreaming of being a pharmacist. They have many Cameroonian friends, some on the other side of the country, and a few are influential. One gives Jende a reference to wealthy Clark Edwards, a Wall Street man looking for a chauffeur. Long story short, (not a spoiler), Jende works for Clark, Neni gets work with his wife, Cindy, and they become friendly, one-on-one, somewhat at arm’s length like family servants. Clark is always working, so Cindy busies herself with social functions and their two boys. But then the oldest boy announces he’s going to search for fulfilment in India and skip college. Neni finds Cindy in a bad way one day, and Cindy suddenly confides in her. “‘I came from a poor family. A very, very poor family.’ ‘Me, too, madam—’ Cindy shook her head. ‘No, you don’t understand,’ she said. ‘Being poor for you in Africa is fine. Most of you are poor over there. The shame of it, it’s not as bad for you.’” Neni has enough sense to stay quiet, [while I, smugly feeling more culturally aware than Cindy, was annoyed with Cindy]. As it turns out, however, Cindy’s family and youth actually WERE more horrifying than Neni’s. And there is, of course, some truth to accepting as the norm whatever you and your friends have. [I feel suitably humbled.] Neni sympathises, realising she had, and still has, a warm, loving family. So she keeps Cindy’s secrets to herself, just as she keeps her own legal situation secret. Cindy’s dream is a happy home. Or as Jende hopes“ . . . some marriages did not need to be happy. They needed only to be sufficiently comfortable, and he hoped the Edwardses would at least find that.” As Jende struggles with their legal troubles, Clark’s company, Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy, plunging the world economy into the Global Financial Crisis. Jende has overheard many conversations but has been very discreet, keeping Clark’s secrets to himself. Eventually, Jende and Neni realise their jobs are in jeopardy and the way they each choose to deal with the secrets they’re keeping drives a wedge between them. Not only will you see the fallout from the GFC from a different angle, you may appreciate being exposed to another culture, a lot older than most. This seems very real and plausible to me, sad, true and one of those I-don’t-know-what-the-answer-is situations. There is a fair bit of teaching and preaching, but that’s understandable. Something I did notice (again, in a book by an African-born author living and writing in America) was this, from Neni. “Nothing shamed her more than black people embarrassing themselves in front of white people by behaving the way white people expect them to behave. That was the one reason why she had such a hard time understanding African-Americans—they embarrassed themselves in front of white people left and right and didn’t seem to care.” The English of the Cameroonians fluctuates between relatively proper English, and then a kind of loose English with some Cameroonian words and phrases thrown in, and finally there’s the excited language they use with each other in America. It’s a loud, colourful, mish-mash of English, French, Cameroonian and could be the language used in Cameroon now, Cameroonian Pidgin English. I loved this particular passage, where Neni’s and her friend are having coffee with Neni’s handsome young instructor, who shocks them when he mentions his boyfriend. “The instructor laughed. ‘I take it you ladies don’t know many men with boyfriends?’ Fatou shook her head. Neni’s mouth remained ajar. ‘I don’t know no gay man from my country,’ Fatou said. ‘But my village we used to got one man who walk lika woman. He hang his hand for air and shake his derrière very nice when he dance.’ ‘That’s funny.’ ‘Everybody say he musto be woman inside, but nobody call him gay because he got a wife and childrens. And we no got no word for gay. So, I am happy to meet you!’ There is a lot of Cameroonian food and hospitality. Neni misses bargaining for food and reminisces about how mothers stretch meals in Cameroon, cooking so children take leftovers to school for lunch. [Handy tip follows!] “If the woman was smart she would make the food extra-spicy, so the children would have a sip of water with every bite, get full faster, and the food would last longer.” For Fatou, the friend shocked by the gay instructor, she finds there’s a price to pay for bringing her kids to America. They tell people they are American. “Only when prodded did they reluctantly admit that well, actually, our parents are Africans. But we’re Americans, they always added. Which hurt Fatou and made her wonder, was it possible her children thought they were better than her because they were Americans and she was African?” And for Neni, if her children were to miss out on growing up in America: “They would lose the opportunity to grow up in a magnificent land of uninhibited dreamers.” Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for the preview copy from which I've taken the liberty of quoting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    It seems like 2016 is the year of some really, really great debuts—and Behold the Dreamers is no exception. Imbolo Mbue has created a story that's at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. You can't help but feel for the characters, empathize with their struggles, rejoice in their victories, and mourn with them in their sufferings. She touches on issues of love & marriage, immigration, wealth & poverty, identity and the American Dream. It's an ambitious novels but pulls it off excellently. I woul It seems like 2016 is the year of some really, really great debuts—and Behold the Dreamers is no exception. Imbolo Mbue has created a story that's at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. You can't help but feel for the characters, empathize with their struggles, rejoice in their victories, and mourn with them in their sufferings. She touches on issues of love & marriage, immigration, wealth & poverty, identity and the American Dream. It's an ambitious novels but pulls it off excellently. I would highly recommend this one to anyone looking for a page-turning story (not because of an exciting plot but because you just have to find out what happens to these characters), and for anyone who doesn't read a lot of literary fiction—I think this would be a great starting place. So much to think about with this one; I'm sure I'll keep thinking about it for weeks to come. And I can't wait to see what she writes next!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Behold the Dreamers by Imbole Mbue is a 2016 Random House publication. This is one of those books that created a fair amount of buzz during 2016. For me, it’s one of those books I wouldn’t ordinarily pick out, but I was curious to know why the book was nominated for so many awards. I enjoyed the book, initially, and found myself feeling sympathetic towards Jende and his fierce determination to stay in America and create a better life for his family. I watched with dread as he got sucked into the Behold the Dreamers by Imbole Mbue is a 2016 Random House publication. This is one of those books that created a fair amount of buzz during 2016. For me, it’s one of those books I wouldn’t ordinarily pick out, but I was curious to know why the book was nominated for so many awards. I enjoyed the book, initially, and found myself feeling sympathetic towards Jende and his fierce determination to stay in America and create a better life for his family. I watched with dread as he got sucked into the family drama of his employer and as cracks begin to appear in his marriage. But, as well drawn as the characters were, the last quarter of the book was just horrendous. The conclusion was certainly not what I was expecting it to be and to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I think the novel points to the unrealistic expectations many immigrants have of the ‘American Dream’, and how difficult it is for anyone to achieve it, even more so during an economic crisis. The experiences of this family are certainly realistic, which is probably a good thing, since it gives the reader a great deal of insight into the struggles of immigrant families attempting to make a life for themselves in America and the serious challenges they face. But, perhaps in the mood I’m in currently, I just didn’t want quite that much reality. The change in the character’s personalities, the deflation of ambition, the fighting spirit extinguished, coupled with the attitudes toward women, were very disturbing to me and I was left wondering just exactly what it was about this book that resonated with the critics. So, I’m kind of scratching my head here, wondering if I’m missing some major point everyone else picked up on. That’s entirely possible, but even so, I still don’t know if there are any missed nuances that could change my mind about how things turned out in the end. So, overall, this book is well written and realistic, with incredible characterizations, but ultimately, it was not really my kind of book. So here again, I’m stuck with how to rate this one and so I’ll give it the fairest rating I can which is- 3 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 5* of five 2020 UPDATE THIS BEAUTIFUL BOOK HAS A SIBLING! How Beautiful We Were arrives in your mailboxes or on your Kindles in June. Start with this book and I bet you'll preorder the new one. She is that kind of author...read one, get the burn to read them all. 2017 NEWS! THIS 5-STAR READ IS THE WINNER OF THE PEN/FAULKNER AWARD! I voted for this book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. I read somewhere on the internet that this just might be The Great American Novel. I agree. Nothing is m Rating: 5* of five 2020 UPDATE THIS BEAUTIFUL BOOK HAS A SIBLING! How Beautiful We Were arrives in your mailboxes or on your Kindles in June. Start with this book and I bet you'll preorder the new one. She is that kind of author...read one, get the burn to read them all. 2017 NEWS! THIS 5-STAR READ IS THE WINNER OF THE PEN/FAULKNER AWARD! I voted for this book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. I read somewhere on the internet that this just might be The Great American Novel. I agree. Nothing is more American, in my experience of being a life-long one, than rooting for the underdog. Nothing is more American than relishing, with unabashed schadenfreude, the fall of the mighty and greedy. These two fundamental American character traits intersect in this well-crafted debut novel. (This is the author's debut novel, but I will bet large sums of cash money that it's not her first...this is an accomplished, polished, beautiful piece of writing and plotting, and it has numerous older siblings in the "recycle" folder on her hard drive or I'm your maiden auntie.) Don't waste time reading reviews, go get the book and read it! Now! Quick sticks, possums, don't deprive yourselves of this pleasure.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Blankfein

    Follow me on https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com for all my recommendations and reviews. Loved this debut novel by Imbolo Mbue! Jende and Neni, from Cameroon, are striving to achieve the American Dream…apartment in NYC, working hard and studying long, struggling to raise a family in the United States. They have high hopes and aspirations, and with a positive outlook, they aim to achieve their goals. Clark and Cindy are American, rich and live a lavish lifestyle. Their lives are filled with pain Follow me on https://booknationbyjen.wordpress.com for all my recommendations and reviews. Loved this debut novel by Imbolo Mbue! Jende and Neni, from Cameroon, are striving to achieve the American Dream…apartment in NYC, working hard and studying long, struggling to raise a family in the United States. They have high hopes and aspirations, and with a positive outlook, they aim to achieve their goals. Clark and Cindy are American, rich and live a lavish lifestyle. Their lives are filled with pain and despair, as they desperately try to maintain their wealth and prosperity during the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a financially devastating crisis in 2008. The two couples organically provide each other with help and support as they are faced with challenges in their personal journeys. Mbue provides valuable insight into the immigrant struggle, the perseverance and strength it takes to settle in another country, and the breaking point when home may be calling, wherever the may be. I loved the characters, their depth and their relationships with each other. A thoughtful, timely, and fast paced read. Follow my blog Book Nation by Jen for more book reviews and recommendations.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    The immigrant story has been the central theme to quite a lot of contemporary novels these past few years. The release of Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers may have first been perceived as another typical immigrant story to join all the others, but actually it's much more.... For more click the link https://browngirlreading.com/2017/01/... The immigrant story has been the central theme to quite a lot of contemporary novels these past few years. The release of Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers may have first been perceived as another typical immigrant story to join all the others, but actually it's much more.... For more click the link https://browngirlreading.com/2017/01/...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    Jende Jonga believes in the American Dream. A Cameroonian immigrant, he came to the U.S. to make a better life for himself, and he dreamed of providing opportunity for his wife, Neni, and their young son, Liomi, who eventually are able to join him in an apartment in Harlem. Neni pursues education to become a pharmacist, while Jende drives a cab and hopes for a better opportunity. Good fortune presents itself in the fall of 2007, when Jende lands a job as the chauffeur of a senior executive with L Jende Jonga believes in the American Dream. A Cameroonian immigrant, he came to the U.S. to make a better life for himself, and he dreamed of providing opportunity for his wife, Neni, and their young son, Liomi, who eventually are able to join him in an apartment in Harlem. Neni pursues education to become a pharmacist, while Jende drives a cab and hopes for a better opportunity. Good fortune presents itself in the fall of 2007, when Jende lands a job as the chauffeur of a senior executive with Lehman Brothers, Clark Edwards. Clark and Jende build a solid relationship based on mutual respect and trust, as Jende assures Clark he will turn a blind eye (and ear) to the conversations Clark has while in the car, the people with whom Clark meets, and the places Jende takes him. Over time, Clark becomes a fixture in the Edwards family, driving Clark's mercurial wife, Cindy, as well as the couple's two sons, hippie idealist Vince, who wants to denounce all his father has worked for, and young Mighty, who is fascinated by Jende and Neni's culture. Cindy even offers Neni a temporary job as a housekeeper at the Edwards' house in the Hamptons. But as the financial crisis looms, and the pressures of working for Lehman Brothers begin taking their toll on Clark, the Edwards' marriage begins to crack under the stress, placing Neni and Jende squarely in the middle, testing both of their loyalties. Meanwhile, problems with Jende's immigration status cause more problems for the couple, straining their own marriage, as each tries to pursue their own solutions. When the Great Recession hits, it does more than cause the downfall of Lehman Brothers and a nationwide economic collapse: it throws the very idea of the American Dream into jeopardy for Jende and Neni. Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers is a look at the immigrant experience through the eyes of a married couple, who have similar and different desires, and different solutions to their problems. This is a book about whether to fight for what you want and believe, or whether it is wiser to capitulate to forces larger and stronger than you, and how to overcome your problems. It's also the story of how people who have always seemed different suddenly find themselves falling into traditional (and not always welcomed) roles expected from their culture. I thought this was an interesting book, as it helped you understand why so many people want to leave their countries and come to America. It's both the myth of a world of opportunity, as well as the chance to prove your worth to those in your country, that beckons many to the U.S., but it is far from the perfect world so many immigrants envision. And it is a look through immigrants' eyes at the lives of those they think have everything, and notice that their problems are eerily similar in many ways. Mbue did a great job capturing the voice of Jende and Neni, and portraying their experiences and challenges. I felt as if that could be the entire story, without the drama surrounding the Edwards family, which seemed much more routine and stereotypical. And while I know what significant financial and emotional stress can do to a marriage, I really didn't like the way that Neni and Jende's characters transformed as things started going downhill for them. This is definitely a heartfelt book, about the need to feel that you're providing for your family, and the need to feel stable, and feel loved and appreciated. I felt it dragged a little at times, but Mbue is a talented writer with an ear for dialogue, and a promising future ahead of her. NetGalley and Random House provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available! See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  19. 5 out of 5

    Britany

    This novel was a breath of fresh air-- when you read something like this, you wonder how it's possible that there aren't more voices like Ms. Mbue's getting published. We follow a married couple from Cameroon, Africa working to get citizenship in New York. Jende & Neni Jonga struggle to understand the immigration process in America. Jende finds a job as a driver for Clark Edwards- an executive for Lehman Brothers- oh did I forget to mention that this book takes place in 2008, before the S#*t hit This novel was a breath of fresh air-- when you read something like this, you wonder how it's possible that there aren't more voices like Ms. Mbue's getting published. We follow a married couple from Cameroon, Africa working to get citizenship in New York. Jende & Neni Jonga struggle to understand the immigration process in America. Jende finds a job as a driver for Clark Edwards- an executive for Lehman Brothers- oh did I forget to mention that this book takes place in 2008, before the S#*t hit the fan? We follow Neni and Jende as they grapple with an attorney and the legal system trying desperately to push them out of America. Mbue does a fantastic job of developing the characters that appear in this book. I fell in love with Neni and Mighty Edwards. They form a bond that goes beyond skin color, class status, and language. The Edwards family- classic upper white class has nuances that I appreciated and made these characters all have individual strengths and flaws that made them come alive off the pages. My only issue is that there were a few plot lines that were unnecessary and felt a little forced. (view spoiler)[Cindy's parentage (hide spoiler)] I also anticipated that the financial bailout and collapse of the mortgage crisis would play a bigger role in the book than it actually did. I had to keep reading if the Jongas would be granted immunity or deported back to Cameroon. It created a tension that I couldn't avoid, and anxiously kept turning the pages to find out how this would end. A wonderful book by an author with a strong voice and much to tell us about. I'm eagerly looking forward to her next work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    The book itself is excellent: a beautifully written story about family, dreams, what home means, the different interpretations of the American dream… The audiobook is an Oscar-worthy production. I know the Oscars don’t give awards for audiobook narrators but they should–they should give all the awards to Prentice Onayemi for his impeccable, brilliant, and lovely narration. I finished this book feeling as if I had just walked out of an amazing Broadway show. I will read anything Imbolo Mbue write The book itself is excellent: a beautifully written story about family, dreams, what home means, the different interpretations of the American dream… The audiobook is an Oscar-worthy production. I know the Oscars don’t give awards for audiobook narrators but they should–they should give all the awards to Prentice Onayemi for his impeccable, brilliant, and lovely narration. I finished this book feeling as if I had just walked out of an amazing Broadway show. I will read anything Imbolo Mbue writes and listen to anything Prentice Onayemi narrates. — Jamie Canaves from The Best Books We Read In October 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/10/31/riot-r...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brandice

    Behold the Dreamers was good, but not great. The beginning of the book was strong - I was intrigued and wanted to keep reading the story. The struggle of the main characters in their pursuit of the American dream was well-portrayed, however I felt like the book's ending fell very flat.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Anze

    Jende and Neni Jonga leave Limbe, Cameroon for a shot at the "American Dream". Having overstayed his visa Jende has a legal ongoing matter to gain asylum and thus the opportunity to stay permanently in America. But his day to day is anything but easy. Driving a cab in New York and earning a meager living is far from the life he dreams of. Through a recommendation, Jende lands the job of driving Clark Edwards, an executive for Lehman Brothers. With a pay raise comes along the expectations of the Jende and Neni Jonga leave Limbe, Cameroon for a shot at the "American Dream". Having overstayed his visa Jende has a legal ongoing matter to gain asylum and thus the opportunity to stay permanently in America. But his day to day is anything but easy. Driving a cab in New York and earning a meager living is far from the life he dreams of. Through a recommendation, Jende lands the job of driving Clark Edwards, an executive for Lehman Brothers. With a pay raise comes along the expectations of the upmost discretion. Soon its not just Jende but also Neni that become involved in the Edwardses' lives. When the economy collapses so does their facades. While this novel is set ten years ago, its timing could not be more relevant. Dealing with immigration, the "American Dream", race, discrimination and gender roles this work was impactful. Jende, originally from Cameroon, wants to be more. He wants more opportunities for himself and his family. So day to day he toils and saves money to bring his family over. When he gets the job with Clark Edwards, its seems like matters are finally working out in his favor. With Neni in school, Jende feels more and more encouraged that their dream life is within reach. Clark and Cindy Edwards are a high profile couple that bring the Jongas into their fold. Gradually Jende and Neni learn of their secrets, secrets that put them in compromising situations and make them do questionable things. Characterization was done well as all characters had qualities that made them sympathetic but also infurating. In short, no one was blameless. The way in which the lives of the Jongas and the Edwards intertwined set the tone for this work. The background of this work is the ecomic collapse of Wall Street but that is not the only thing to collapse in the book. Along with the economy, relationships marriages and states of minds suffer as well. As both familes try to retain even a remnant of their previous lifes, the despair in the atmosphere was tangible. Many questions are raised. The most prominent ones being: When does the "American Dream" become a nightmare? How steep is the price? Is it worth it? Mbue does an in depth exploration of the matter. A poignant, raw, turbulent, and emotional book this was not an easy read. However, its one that made me think, really think about the struggles of finding one's home. To be completely honest, I do not love the ending but thought it was realistic and open to interpretation. Would recommend this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    karen

    i still plan to read this one (slow down, time!!!), but once again proving you don't have to have read every book in order to do good readers' advisory work, i have made a readalike list here: https://www.rifflebooks.com/list/236305 i still plan to read this one (slow down, time!!!), but once again proving you don't have to have read every book in order to do good readers' advisory work, i have made a readalike list here: https://www.rifflebooks.com/list/236305

  24. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    America's relationship with immigrants is complicated, dangling the American dream while at the same time withholding it. This book was an illuminating look at a family from Limbe, Cameroon who try to establish a life for themselves in New York City. Sometimes this works out, and sometimes it doesn't. This was an excellent book, especially from a first time author. Jende Jonga, his wife Neni and their six year old son are living in Harlem. Jende has a job as chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a Lehman America's relationship with immigrants is complicated, dangling the American dream while at the same time withholding it. This book was an illuminating look at a family from Limbe, Cameroon who try to establish a life for themselves in New York City. Sometimes this works out, and sometimes it doesn't. This was an excellent book, especially from a first time author. Jende Jonga, his wife Neni and their six year old son are living in Harlem. Jende has a job as chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive, his wife Cindy and their two sons. Neni is studying to be a pharmacist and works as a home health aide. The book illustrates how precarious their position is without green cards. Complicating the lives of the Jonga family is their entanglement with the Edwards family. Cindy, who is weighted down by self pity, eventually causes a crisis for the Jongas. The fact that this book is set at the time of the Lehman Brothers collapse also resonated with me, because I knew many people who lost their jobs then. Prentice Onayemi, the narrator of the audiobook, did a very good job with all of the accents. I received a free copy of the e-book from the publisher, however I wound up borrowing and listening to the audiobook from the library.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    This was a stressful read for me and it may make your stomach ulcer bleed a little. I became anxious contemplating the poor choices the characters faced, and picked out things I would have done differently, given the constraints. A man from Cameroon overstays his visa in the United States, invites his girlfriend and their baby to come from Africa, then seeks an immigration lawyer to plead a case of asylum for him. This is a story of immigration, illegal trying to be legal. It is a story that puts This was a stressful read for me and it may make your stomach ulcer bleed a little. I became anxious contemplating the poor choices the characters faced, and picked out things I would have done differently, given the constraints. A man from Cameroon overstays his visa in the United States, invites his girlfriend and their baby to come from Africa, then seeks an immigration lawyer to plead a case of asylum for him. This is a story of immigration, illegal trying to be legal. It is a story that puts the reader in the awkward position of caring about a person in a difficult position and still not feeling obligated to help them evade a law designed to protect said reader. The author wanted us to feel that tension and to recognize the strain under which many immigrants operate. It is almost unimaginable—the pressure under which people of conscience live. Americans still have not had that conversation we really need to have about immigration. Of course people want to live in America. Although sometimes our nation does not live up to its promise, it is still a land of laws, democratic elections, enormous resources, and relative peace. One of the things that makes us special are laws, agreed upon and enforced, that benefit citizens. People from other countries are welcome to visit and perhaps even stay, if they follow the law. The point of this story is that visitors and/or immigrants must decide what kind of life they want to lead. If they come illegally over the border or refuse to leave when their lawful documentation expires, they must decide if they want to spend psychic energy evading the law in the future. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, live a life of evasion, less because of any moral stand but simply because I couldn’t take the uncertainty and inability to live openly. But I don’t have the difficult life in the home country that awaits those whose plea to stay in the U.S. is rejected. These immigrants are from Cameroon. They could just as easily be from South America. Difficulties exist in the home countries of immigrants. Does that mean we must take them because they would rather be here than there? Most of us would probably agree that we do not. On the other hand, natural disasters, massive corruption, or political upheavals do seem to influence Americans’ attitudes, as they should. What should our policy be towards climate-related migrants? War-related migrants? Surely we cannot refuse them entry. That would be unconscionable. Mbue’s novel raises questions. It seems an opportune time to discuss these issues. Add the complication of a black man immigrating to a country who has not yet solved their race prejudices: “You think a black man gets a good job in this country by sitting in front of white people and telling the truth? Please don’t make me laugh.”This novel is set in the run-up to Obama’s historic election, which was also the run-up to the financial crisis. “The only difference between the Egyptians [during the Bible’s Old Testament calamity]… and the Americans now, Jende reasoned, was that the Egyptians had been cursed by their own wickedness. They had called an abomination upon their land by worshipping idols and enslaving their fellow humans, all so they could live in splendor. They had chosen riches over righteousness, rapaciousness over justice. The Americans had done no such thing.” Near the end of the book two characters discuss a choice the illegal immigrants are considering so that they can stay: to divorce & marry someone else for a green card. Only they cannot figure out if it is right or wrong to consider this choice. The person to whom they speak quotes Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” I have always interpreted that phrase in a different way than Mbue tells us here it can be interpreted. She says Rumi means ‘Let’s not dwell too much on labeling things as right or wrong.’ Which means, doesn’t it, that rightdoing and wrongdoing are relative? I always thought it meant something like ‘Let’s be bigger than our differences.’ If anyone knows the heart of Rumi, please let me know. Anyway, I spent a great deal of this book gnawing the inside of my cheek. That generally tells me how anxious I am getting. When I draw blood, I have trouble getting past it. Let’s just say I would try my best to be more strategic in decision-making so that I wouldn’t end up in the situation experienced by the characters in this novel. It wasn’t a pleasant read. But I suppose it comes close to the truth for some immigrants. If you want to know what it is like to be them, try this.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    An interesting story about an African couple that come to NYC searching for the American Dream and instead get caught in the worst recession the country has seen short of the Great Depression. Jende finds work as a chauffeur for a Lehman Brothers executive. The contrast between their two lives is surreal. You feel so sorry for Jende and Neni. They are such sweet people, trying so hard. And it's not that their employers are evil. The Edwards seem caring; Mrs. Edwards strokes a check for $500 so t An interesting story about an African couple that come to NYC searching for the American Dream and instead get caught in the worst recession the country has seen short of the Great Depression. Jende finds work as a chauffeur for a Lehman Brothers executive. The contrast between their two lives is surreal. You feel so sorry for Jende and Neni. They are such sweet people, trying so hard. And it's not that their employers are evil. The Edwards seem caring; Mrs. Edwards strokes a check for $500 so that Jende’s nephews can remain in school. The most interesting person in the class contrast is Vince. A rich man’s son who takes his father’s wealth and what it provides for granted and thinks he's a Buddhist. Maybe the one thing that is the same across race and class is parenthood. As Vince says “It amazes me, you're so different and yet you're so like my parents in so many ways”. I was fascinated by the Cameroon couple’s take on the race relations. Neni is amazed that Winston has so many white friends. She can't imagine herself being able to be herself among whites. The Edwards are definitely “the other” but yet there are strong bonds between the two couples. In fact, at times, the understanding between the women and men are stronger than between the spouses. Mbue takes her time getting to the collapse of Lehman. Her writing style is precise, not overly flowery. Things move at a good clip. She does a great job describing all the meltdowns - of job, economy, marriages, families. There is so much meat to this book. What constitutes good and evil? Right and wrong? As Natasha quotes Rumi “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there”. It definitely makes you think about the status of illegal immigrants and the steps they take to stay in this country. It would make an excellent book club selection. My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joce (squibblesreads)

    Behold the Dreamers is an #ownvoices book speaking about the powerlessness behind the immigration process and the adjustment process which is different for every individual and family that tries to immigrate to the USA. It discussed some microaggressions towards Cameroonian people specifically in this book, but also towards other African countries such as "I've seen your country once in National Geographic", or "my sister went to Kenya last year" - and provided the analogy of telling someone fro Behold the Dreamers is an #ownvoices book speaking about the powerlessness behind the immigration process and the adjustment process which is different for every individual and family that tries to immigrate to the USA. It discussed some microaggressions towards Cameroonian people specifically in this book, but also towards other African countries such as "I've seen your country once in National Geographic", or "my sister went to Kenya last year" - and provided the analogy of telling someone from New York City that they've been to Seattle and therefore are familiar with and "know" New York, when really, even though there are similarities, they are also very different. I discussed some more themes, including being an international student in academia, attitudes towards law enforcement, and the safety within community in MY FULL NON-SPOILER REVIEW VIDEO HERE! This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. It's not perfect but I appreciated how it made me look at the lens from which I see the world and that deserves a very high rating from me, so I gave it 4.5 stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Will be vacillating between 4 and 5 on this one. Letting it marinate for a minute... Roughly 4.5 Stars Listened to the audiobook. Prentice Onayemi is excellent!!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I have so much love for these characters! The story of a Cameroon family coming to America to chase their American dream. This book really takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, first hope and then despair. You feel everything this family endure trying to secure their immigration papers, the lengths they will go to to fight to stay in New York City, the city of a million dreams. Set in 2008 during the financial crisis, the widespread job shortage causing a real fear for their future possibili I have so much love for these characters! The story of a Cameroon family coming to America to chase their American dream. This book really takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, first hope and then despair. You feel everything this family endure trying to secure their immigration papers, the lengths they will go to to fight to stay in New York City, the city of a million dreams. Set in 2008 during the financial crisis, the widespread job shortage causing a real fear for their future possibilities, securing their papers becomes an even more complicated ordeal and cracks begin to emerge affecting their marriage, their health and it leads them to turn against each other. It’s honestly raw and depicts the agony of waiting for a decision that will decide their fate of whether they can stay in America or if they will be deported back to Cameroon, a shameful prospect. You can tell the author really injected her own life experiences to really bring this book and characters to life. I was completely drawn in, I really cared about the characters plight, their hardships, feeling their pain of wanting to realise a dream so badly that you are forced to sacrifice what is most important to you. I was thoroughly engrossed by this book and can’t find a single thing I didn’t enjoy about it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aditi

    "The American dream means that you have the chance to work hard, get an education and do great things for yourself, for your kids. The great thing in American is it doesn't matter what your last name is, doesn't matter if you're wealthy." ----Bobby Jindal Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian author, pens an incredibly inspiring debut novel, Behold the Dreamers that unfolds the stories of two families set against the backdrop of the Big Apple, one is a very poor yet hardworking immigrant family from a very "The American dream means that you have the chance to work hard, get an education and do great things for yourself, for your kids. The great thing in American is it doesn't matter what your last name is, doesn't matter if you're wealthy." ----Bobby Jindal Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian author, pens an incredibly inspiring debut novel, Behold the Dreamers that unfolds the stories of two families set against the backdrop of the Big Apple, one is a very poor yet hardworking immigrant family from a very small town in Africa and another is an American family who are filthy rich, as the two families come together with their growing fondness for one another, and so the inevitable curse of the Great Recession that tears each and every one from both the families apart. Synopsis: A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy Named one of BuzzFeed’s “Incredible New Books You Need to Read This Summer” Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future. However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ facades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice. Jende and Neni, the young immigrant couple from Cameroon with a child, have finally managed to make a decent life in America, as Neni attends the graduate school to be eligible for a scholarship that will earn her a spot in some college to achieve her dream of becoming a pharmacist whereas Jende has bagged a decent paying as well as respectable job of a chauffeur for a filthy rich and wall street company's boss, Edward. Edward and Cindy, the middle aged American couple with two sons, have a posh lifestyle and a respectable reputation in the society, as Edward is the boss of Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street company whereas Cindy is the model American housewife with social parties and holidays in Hamptons keep her busy. But what happens to these families when the Great Recession strikes the doors of each and every Wall Street companies including Lehman Brothers and wipes off the rise of the American economy like a clean slate? While reading this book, every now and while, I had to stop myself and was forced to ponder when whether I'm reading a debut author's work, as it turned out to be miraculous and something magical, within an instant, I got a new perspective into the universe that the author has diligently created with the help of her story. Even though this is a work of fiction, I had a hard time in believing that this story ain't real. So kudos to the author for her spirit to write such a heart-touching and realistic novel that will inspire those who dream the Great American Dream to make it big in America. And here is the author who has captured the soul of a hard working man who wants to earn a green card with dignity and respect, and not illegally or in any shortcut method. The author's writing style is excellent and eloquent, laced properly with emotions that will make the readers feel deeply. The plot is so addictive that it will instantly suck in the readers right from its very start and will hold their attention till the very last page. The narrative is sensitive, emphatic and often inspired from the local Cameroonian dialect with its proper translation into English, hence the readers are in for a treat as they would get to know a lesser known language and would also be able to comprehend with the honest and real dialogues. The pacing of the book is smooth like a calm river as the author unravels the story gradually through challenges and twists. The characters from the book are extremely well developed and are developed out of realism that will help the readers feel connected to the characters. The main character, Jende, is amazing, motivating, dedicated and extremely caring family man, who thinks about his family before anything and everything else. Neni is the woman who is so much deluded by achieving a decent and glamorous American life style and she gets so much wrapped up in this great dream, that she forgets about her family and her birthplace often. Edward is the gentleman and a typical American who lives the luxurious lifestyle even if he sometimes has to excuse himself in the indecent frivolities of life. Cindy maybe a beautiful American housewife, but she is a sad and broken woman from the inside as she indulges herself into the ugly shortcuts of life. The author flawless evolves each and every characters through the inevitable challenge of the Great Recession as she throws them into the mouth of a dark age with no jobs and falling economy and overextended visa situations. The characters are, in short, quite memorable as well as enlightening to send the readers a strong message of the importance of homeland and earning respect through clean ways. In a nutshell, this is a motivating and extremely gripping story that won't let the readers to look away from the book even for once, and would help them realize the beauty, importance and meaning of earning respect in one's own society or country. Verdict: One of the best books that I read this year! Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

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