One of my goals this year was not only to read more books but to also read more books from Black or minority authors. I think it’s important to diversify when reading, but also to broaden your horizons to other styles of writing, but also perspectives. It can never be a bad thing, so when I spotted Behold The Dreamers at the library and saw that it was from an African author, I snatched it up. I have to admit that I wasn’t aware this book is/was on Oprah’s book list or that she’d endorsed it, but when I did know, you know I wasn’t disappointed😏.
The book follows the lives of Jende Jonga, his wife Neni and their son, who originally from Cameroon are seeking a better life in New York City. Jende lands a job as the chauffeur of Clark Edwards, a senior partner at Lehman Brothers and eventually get introduced to his wife and their sons. Their lives are expand in many ways once Jende lands this job, but they are also met with some new realizations and harsh realities. Their relationship is then tested when Jende’s immigration status hangs in the balance and they discover sides of themselves they never expected.
Break it Down:
I love how the story unfolds and how Imbolo writes and weaves the characters together, you have an idea of what each lifestyle would be like and in some ways each family aspires for the same things. You willed them on to great things and really didn’t want anything bad to happen to them and when the “villain” of the story is finally revealed, I found myself willing something bad to happen to her, so by Chapter 41, my mouth fell open at a turn of events. While what the character does isn’t a good thing- I felt myself cheering her on for her bravery and her drive to literally do anything for her family. I also felt it mirrored the strength of the character! I’m not sure I related to this particularly because coincidentally I am going through a similar situation with a visa application to the UK, so naturally this story resonated so deeply with me; the fear of the worst case scenario, the worry, the embarrassment of possibly having to return to your homeland seemingly a failure if the application is rejected. For me what resonated, was the idea of success, we often think it means living in a “better” country, but despite their life in America not quite working out how they planned, because of their hard work and perseverance they do make a better life for themselves, it’s just not in the country they originally thought. Ultimately, life continues to develop and blossom, making connections and simply living the day to day until the decision is made. I really understood Neni’s fight to keep her family in NYC at basically any cost, but I also understood Jende’s feelings of pride in refusing to beg or plead in order to stay. But, ultimately, where your home ends up being might just surprise you.
The RnR Rating:
4/5- I loved the “fight” in the story, the way the author, Imbolo Mbue, paints the image of how life is like for the characters back in Cameroon so vividly, I could picture myself there. I loved the insertion of Cameroonian songs and sayings, it really helped to transport the reader in the character’s shoes. But what I have to say I loved the most about the book is the fact that it doesn’t end in the happily ever after or with the notion that the great US of A is the epitome of a “perfect” life. It’s far more realistic and reflective of what life is for many who are disillusioned with what western countries appear to be like for many from poorer countries. Pick this book up, it’s well worth the read!
Would I recommend the book?:
Yes! Yes! Yes! 100% yes! Did I say it enough? It’s eye opening, but it’s also open and honest and the characters are so relatable, the immigrant’s struggle is something that I can understand and can imagine my mother went through some of the same fears.
Have you picked this book up? What are your thoughts and feelings about it? Let us know! Do you have any recommendations?