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Behold the Dreamers
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Archived | Regional Books 2019 > Jan/Feb 2019 | Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue SPOILERS ALLOWED

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message 1: by Anetq, Tour Operator & Guide (last edited Dec 14, 2018 05:15AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anetq | 709 comments Mod
This thread is for discussions of our Jan/Feb 2019 read of Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue - Notice that there may be SPOILERS (Find the no-spoiler thread here)
- Feel free to discuss anything you like about the book here: Here's a few questions to get you started:
How did you like the characters? The plot? The style? The portrayal of characters and their surroundings?


message 2: by Eileen (new) - added it

Eileen Omosa | 1 comments Hello,
My name is Eileen Omosa, a new member to this group. I read and reviewed Behold the Dreamers.
Imbolo's use of suspense kept me awake on many nights, wanting to know what happens next, to each character and community. I kept on wondering if Jende would get his Green Card or not. If Neni would complete her study program in Pharmacy. If a time would come when their two children would have separate sleeping rooms from the parents? I still wonder how Jende’s family is doing.

Among many other things, I like how the author uses food to demonstrate the close-knit relationship between Neni and Jende, the formation of new relationships between Jende’s family and the Edwards’ boys, among the Cameroonian immigrant community, Mrs. Edwards and her friends, and more.

The consumption of cultural foods helps remind the reader that though the characters are thousands of miles away from Cameroon, they have not changed much in terms of their preferred foods, costumes and value of family.

Question: How do people within your community use food, for diet and social relations?

I still have many questions after turning the last page of Behold the Dreamers

Is there a perfect family or society?

Why do the rich and poor struggle each day of their lives?

What keeps immigrants chasing the American dream, even when they have information and experience on how far fetched the dream is?

What role do women play in the preservation of family and society in general?

Overall, I learned a lot about New York during the Great Recession, about the people of Limbe in Cameroon and in the USA, and on the daily triumphs and struggles of both rich and poor households.

Which book would you recommend I read next?


George P. | 189 comments I'm not yet finished but at about 60%, and will probably finish in about a week.
I'm listening to the audiobook read by Prentice Onayemi, who is also a New York actor and has an MBA from Columbia in New York. He did a fantastic job including Camaroonian accents.
I liked how the Lehman brothers collapse and the subprime mortgage fiasco was entwined in the plot, it gave it a grounding that made it more relatable for me.
The novel has well-drawn characters and elements of family life and struggles to "get ahead". It has many similarities with Adichie's Americanah which I happened to be reading at the same time (finished last week). The Namesake is another novel which deals with the immigrant experience which I've read recently, liked a lot and recommend.


message 4: by PS, Short Story Reading Chief (new) - rated it 3 stars

PS | 143 comments Mod
Glad both of you enjoyed / are enjoying this one. I read it before I joined Goodreads but I did makes notes in a reading journal that I think I’ve misplaced. All I remember is that while I found it a very compelling read – I stayed awake all night to finish it –I thought it could have been a lot better. I thought the white family was shown very two-dimensional, the daily(?) conversations in the car came across stilted. I thought the Edwards’ son Vince was presented as a caricature. I’ll have a hunt through my bookshelves tonight for my journal because it’s been over two years and I’ve forgotten a lot of details.


message 5: by Anetq, Tour Operator & Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anetq | 709 comments Mod
I found this a little disappointing to begin with - I am a little fed up with the starry-eyed dream of happiness in America, but it turned out to be a lot more nuanced than I expected from the beginning. Both the description of poor immigrant life in America, the African Diaspora community, the food, culture and life in Cameroon - as well as the realities of the diaspora life "there will always be another emergency, that requires a money transfer with Western Union" - the contrast to an actual Lehman Brothers' boss is maybe a little heavy handed, but it helps set the larger scene and drive the story forward. There is a lot of plot driving this story - I like that!


message 6: by Wim, French Readings (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wim | 681 comments Mod
I finished this one too, and agree it was a compelling read. But it was also a relaxing, smooth easy reading experience.

Overall I found the book rather superficial and predictable: the Lehman collapse of course and the fact that Jende would lose his job. Only his final return to Cameroon was surprising.

Even though it was stereotypical, I liked the parallel of the hard-working Wall Street banker sacrificing his family life to give his family the best, and hard-working (but poor) immigrant doing the same thing to give his children a future. Both are pretty similar. I found the car conversation between Jende and Vince pretty hilarious.

I liked this tension between wanting the best future for your children and leading a satisfying, happy family life.

In the end, both Jende and Clark see the light and choose to have a comfortable family life: both refuse their exhausting jobs and take a step back (just as Vince has been showing them all the time).

Especially for Jende, this choice is not very credible. Going back is really romanticized. As if it is that easy to go back! As if many migrants make this choice (without trying to go abroad again some months or years later).


message 7: by Wim, French Readings (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wim | 681 comments Mod
Something else that I found unreal: Jende and Neni did not really do everything in their might to regularize their status and stay in the US. As appears in the end of the book, both Mr. Edwards and connections at the church group could have helped them.

The more I think about it, the stranger I find the decision to go back to Cameroon.


message 8: by Anetq, Tour Operator & Guide (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anetq | 709 comments Mod
It was an odd wrap-up solution to the book. But different. And the whole "the daughter and son can come back and do it all again made me very tired...


message 9: by George P. (last edited Feb 04, 2019 05:42AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

George P. | 189 comments I thought the author, Imbolo Mbue, was a man but just discovered she is a woman. She was born and lived in Cameroon until coming to the U.S. as a college student. She recently became a U.S. citizen and lives in New York City. There is a video interview with her on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vDDq....
BTW, I am 90% through with the reading.


message 10: by PS, Short Story Reading Chief (last edited Feb 04, 2019 06:13AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

PS | 143 comments Mod
Wim wrote: "Something else that I found unreal: Jende and Neni did not really do everything in their might to regularize their status and stay in the US. As appears in the end of the book, both Mr. Edwards and..."

Interesting Wim! I had totally forgotten that (it is pointless to try and discuss a book you’ve read a while ago haha!). I mean I think the ending was interesting in the sense that it subverts the usual (working class) migrant novel: the yay we made it to America and life is hard and we are being treated as second class citizens but we will persevere because it’s America. So in that sense, I thought it was very interesting. But it didn’t feel convincing enough in this case.

I’ve heard stories about plenty of extended relatives / acquaintances who have migrated back to South Asia after spending over a decade in the US. It’s an upward trend because of uncertain visa rules (especially for spouses) and for those in the corporate world the move is relatively easy. It’s definitely very different if you are a qualified professional – which is why I wasn’t convinced of Jende’s decision. Actually now that I remember doesn’t Ifemelu move back to Nigeria in Americanah. But again her situation was very different!

Annette: Yeah, that was very unsatisfying. What’s the point if they wanted the children to go through all this at some point in the future.


message 11: by Wim, French Readings (new) - rated it 3 stars

Wim | 681 comments Mod
Indeed Sofia, Ifemelu moves back to Nigeria in Americanah, but as you write, her situation was entirely different. Americanah is nuanced, multilayered, really giving an idea of the mental processes migrants go through, also when coming back to their homecountry. Behold the Dreamers doesn't fully capture this.


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