Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Book Review - Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue resonated with me to a certain degree because it amplifies the immigrant experience of a family from Cameroon. I picked this book up and could not put it down as it captured my imagination from beginning to end. At one point, I had to know how it was going to end so I read the last 2 pages so I wouldn't be held in suspense anymore.

Basically, this book builds on the so call American Dream that many in a foreign land hear;  when they get here realize that dreams can be dashed and revived and reshaped over a long period of time. It is the story of Jendi and Neni Jonga - a husband and wife with their young family who made it to American soil.

As is the case with many, he came first, worked hard and eventually sent for her. Working hard is an understatement because he has worked menial jobs in order to save this money. He also has a cousin, who has done well - he is a lawyer and constantly looks out for Jendi. It is because of his cousin, Winston, that Jendi finds himself interviewing to be a chauffeur for a Wall Street Executive - Mr. Clark. He gets the job and making thirty-five thousand a year means he has hit the jackpot and finally arrived. This story takes place during the recent recession of 2009, so along with everyone else he loses what he has worked so hard for. Then the story takes a shift and we see how dreams do shift and can be realized anywhere.

As dreams shift we get an up close view of what this looks like in one marriage - some of it is ugly. I love the intricacies and intimacies in the way the story is told. I love seeing the inner workings of this couple's marriage as they handle all of this stress and I love the description of the Cameroon way of life in America - the holding on to traditions by finding a community of people similar to you, cooking traditional foods and inviting others to partake.

This is a tale of the American Dream intertwined with the Immigrant experience of becoming legal or getting your papers in a foreign land. This book shows how what used to be relatively easy has become quite difficult and the toll it can take.

This book is simultaneously educational and entertaining.

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