Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
For generations, immigrants have come to the US to build better lives for themselves and their children, searching for a taste of the American Dream. Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, explores the difficulties that come along with immigration, both on a legal visa-processing level as well as a personal one.
The books protagonist Jende Jonga is a native of Cameroon, a country he left behind in hopes of realizing the wealth and success he saw portrayed on American television programs. It doesn’t take long in the United States to realize that not everyone lives in a mansion nor has a butler to do his bidding. As a matter of fact, Jende takes on the opposing role in those scenarios: he becomes a personal driver for a wealthy New York bank executive. Stress from Jende’s long work hours is compounded by his questionable visa status, one that becomes fuzzier with each passing day.
Behold the Dreamers protagonist is set is stark relief with Clark Edwards, the man for whom he works. Clark is a high powered Wall Street boss with a house in the city and one in the Hamptons. There is little money can’t buy for the Edwards family. Until, the financial world falls apart, leaving Clark reeling and Jende without a job.
The exploration of love and family, race and immigration, and the relentless pursuit of the American Dream are at the heart of Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, a novel that allows readers to step into the lives of characters from drastically different ends of the economic spectrum and contemplate the paths created by virtue of birthplace, as well as personal choices.
“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? … 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…”
-Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue