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Behold the Dreamers

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  4,961 Ratings  ·  816 Reviews
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 Harle
Hardcover, 380 pages
Published August 23rd 2016 by Random House (first published March 15th 2016)
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Alycia I think I liked that about Neni. People change their minds especially when something they didn't think of is presented. I thought it should that Neni…moreI think I liked that about Neni. People change their minds especially when something they didn't think of is presented. I thought it should that Neni really would do anything for her family. I thought she was a lot tougher than Jende. (less)
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Bernie Neni was desperate to stay in America, to the point that she was willing to do anything. She had tunnel vision and absolutely nothing was going to…moreNeni was desperate to stay in America, to the point that she was willing to do anything. She had tunnel vision and absolutely nothing was going to stand in her way.(less)

Community Reviews

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Emily May
Oct 03, 2016 Emily May rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit, 2016, botm
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
Angela M
Oct 23, 2016 Angela M rated it liked it
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
Dec 28, 2016 Natalie rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, diverse-reads
"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
Ron Charles
Sep 08, 2016 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
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
Navidad Thelamour
“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 ...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 28, 2016 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 17, 2016 Cheri rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 21, 2016 Esil rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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 ...more
Nov 02, 2016 Maxwell rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, 2016, botm
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 ...more
Larry Hoffer
Jul 12, 2016 Larry Hoffer rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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
Aug 16, 2016 Aditi rated it it was amazing
"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
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 ...more
Oct 17, 2016 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
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
Jan 13, 2017 Didi rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of immigrant stories
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
Please read this book. Especially given where we are in our country at the moment with a presidential candidate who says such horrible things about immigrants. Given that we're a nation created by immigrants, I think this book is key to better understanding this key demographic. This book gives life to the immigrant experience in an incredible way. It gave life to the very topic that I've been seeing on the news for months.

Between the novels exploration of the immigrant experience and it's expl
Sep 20, 2016 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good debut by Author Imbolo Mbue who brought a fresh and credible perspective to the ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ in a time of financial crisis.

Clark Edwards, a driven wealthy senior executive at Lehman Brothers is a sympathetic character. Yes, he can be cold-hearted and demanding of his staff and family, but deep down I believe he wants to do what’s right. He sees the handwriting on the wall of the financial collapse but is ignored by superiors who shrug it aside. Meanwhile his privil
Jan 18, 2017 Faith rated it really liked it
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
Jun 24, 2016 Jill rated it liked it
I read this book because of the Netgalley comparison to Khaled Hosseini, the classification of "Literary Fiction" and the Kirkus star it earned. I was expecting a rich & complex story, but I found the characters to be stereotypical and unconvincing. As I progressed through the book I felt as though I had read versions of this story and these characters many times before. I kept waiting for the twist or surprise and while there were a few interesting hills, I was still looking for the mountai ...more
Jul 16, 2016 Lela rated it really liked it
There was much to love about this book and many things I would have like to have expanded. For instance there are quite a few time changes that left out character and relationship development. I think all of the characters except Liomi (son of man & woman trying to legally immigrate into the USA) had issues....some went unexplained & I wished for clarity! I, also, wished for more knowledge about most of the characters. There were time gaps and occasionally some thought had to be put into ...more
J Beckett
Nov 07, 2016 J Beckett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished this undeniably incredible book!!! Gnawing at the bit to begin the review... not sure if
I am capable of writing a review that would capture the magnificence Mbue put into this multi-emotional, honest, and creative story. MUST read. Seriously... MUST READ.
Greg Zimmerman
Aug 23, 2016 Greg Zimmerman rated it it was amazing
4.5, probably, but just fantastic. (First appeared at

There's been no shortage of controversial, combative rhetoric about immigration in this election cycle, so much so that it's hard to separate the Internet meme from the facts. But if you want to find out just how badly our stupid immigration system is broken, check out Imbolo Mbue's terrific, morally complex, heartbreaking debut novel, Behold The Dreamers.

But this novel isn't just about how difficult i
One family's struggle to achieve and hold on to the American Dream as immigration issues lurk like a thief in the night. A familiar and relevant reality of our present day society. I was looking forward to reading this debut novel but sad to say I wasn't overly impressed. Good not great.
Dec 27, 2016 Jen rated it really liked it
This book is exceptionally well-written, particularly for a first novel. It is very interesting and compelling, making it a fast read. The story is unlike any I've ever read. It opened my eyes to see the difficulties to which immigrants can be subjected. Being a first-generation American myself, I'm surprised I never gave any thought to what it was like for my parents to emigrate to this country, or what it's been like for others. The characters and the story are so very real, it's easy to forge ...more
Sep 06, 2016 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
This is a book that is fabulous on audio. The opening song is beautiful and the narrator, Prentice Onayemi, expertly moves back and forth between a Camerooian accent and an American accent. He is very good.

The characters are well drawn and come to life but are all very different in their nature and personality. They each have a distinct voice. The book explores immigration from Cameroon and its rules/laws and difficulties alongside two marriages and the Lehman Brothers collapse of 2008. It is i
Ayelet Waldman
Mar 17, 2016 Ayelet Waldman rated it it was amazing
It's rare that a book is so fascinating, so emotionally compelling and so beautiful that I literally can't put it down. I picked this up one evening before bed. I turned the last page at dawn. It ruined the next day for me--I wasn't much good for anything but a nap--but it was worth every lost hour.
Dec 04, 2016 Stacy rated it liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I expected more with this one. Beautiful descriptive writing for the most part, however I felt the story line wasn't really developed as it should have been. Some parts didn't seem realistic. At times I did get bored. However, I did keep in mind this is her first novel. Despite these couple of things, this is an important novel for the world we live in today. The message of immigration, class, culture are among some of the topics explored. I do like the author's writing and are hoping for better ...more
Jenny (adultishbooks)
Dec 30, 2016 Jenny (adultishbooks) rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Overall, I enjoyed this. I felt connected to the characters. The first half was very strong but it started falling apart for me halfway to 3/4 through although I think the end was appropriate and uplifting for the story.

While the heart of this story was in the right place, I felt like it was disjointed and clunky in points and dragged a bit. It read like a debut novel but the talent is there and it read some authentically that I never felt it rang false.

I got this one from Netgalley an embarras
Aug 29, 2016 Mainon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with an interest in immigration issues; New Yorkers
An earnest portrait of a Cameroonian immigrant family struggling to succeed in New York, set against the backdrop of the Enron/Bear Stearns/Lehman Bros. scandals and the subprime mortgage crisis.

So many things are perfect about this. Though God knows there are fifty million novels set in New York City, the best of them succeed at making those of us who have lived there supremely nostalgic. This is one of those. Which is not to say that this is a gilded portrait of NYC; in many ways it's dark an
Sep 09, 2016 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, arc
This book tells the story of Jende's and Neni's immigration to the US from Cameroon. At the beginning of the book Jende lands a job working as a chauffeur for a Wall Street executive and things begin to look up. But it is 2008 and the Financial Crisis is about to happen, which will impact both their lives as well as the lives of their employers.

I am super torn about this book. On the one hand I really liked it, I I really liked the story told (both stories actually), but the characters, oh my go
Oct 14, 2016 Tanninsandtales rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, arc
The Jongas move from Limbe, Cameroon to New York. Jende, the head of the family, gets a job as chauffeur for Mr. Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. This is 1998, soon before the investment bank collapses. Will the dreams of the Jongas and the Edwards survive the financial crisis?

Behold the Dreamers is an examination of the American Dream from the perspective of an immigrant Cameroonian family and of an upper-class New Yorker one. It shows through its fluid prose and strong character
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Around the Year i...: Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue 5 11 Dec 15, 2016 02:34PM  
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Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City. BEHOLD THE DREAMERS is her first novel.
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“Germany was his favorite place to live, he said, because, even as a child, he could tell how much the Germans loved Americans, and it felt great to be loved for his nationality.” 1 likes
“indeed, bad news has a way of slithering into good days and making a mockery of complacent joys.” 1 likes
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