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Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club)
Cover of Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club)
Behold the Dreamers (Oprah's Book Club)
A Novel
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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
A New York Times Notable Book
  • Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award
  • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award
  • An ALA Notable Book
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
    NPR • The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle
  • The Guardian
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Chicago Public Library
  • BookPage
  • Refinery29
  • Kirkus Reviews

    Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses' summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.
    However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' façades.
    When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende's job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
    Praise for 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 . . . Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller."The Washington Post
    "A capacious, big-hearted novel."The New York Times Book Review
    "Behold the Dreamers' heart . . . belongs to the struggles and small triumphs of the Jongas, which Mbue traces in clean, quick-moving paragraphs."Entertainment Weekly
    "Mbue's writing is warm and captivating."People (book of the week)
    "[Mbue's] book isn't the first work of fiction to grapple with the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, but it's surely one of the best. . . . It's a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American."—NPR
    "This story is one that needs to be told."Bust
    "Behold the Dreamers challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred."O: The Oprah Magazine

    "[A] beautiful, empathetic novel."The Boston Globe
    "A witty, compassionate, swiftly paced novel that takes on race, immigration, family and the dangers of capitalist excess."St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    "Mbue [is] a deft, often lyrical observer. . . . [Her] meticulous storytelling announces a writer in command of her gifts."—Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • 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
    A New York Times Notable Book
  • Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award
  • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award
  • An ALA Notable Book
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
    NPR • The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle
  • The Guardian
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Chicago Public Library
  • BookPage
  • Refinery29
  • Kirkus Reviews

    Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses' summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.
    However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' façades.
    When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende's job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.
    Praise for 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 . . . Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller."The Washington Post
    "A capacious, big-hearted novel."The New York Times Book Review
    "Behold the Dreamers' heart . . . belongs to the struggles and small triumphs of the Jongas, which Mbue traces in clean, quick-moving paragraphs."Entertainment Weekly
    "Mbue's writing is warm and captivating."People (book of the week)
    "[Mbue's] book isn't the first work of fiction to grapple with the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, but it's surely one of the best. . . . It's a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American."—NPR
    "This story is one that needs to be told."Bust
    "Behold the Dreamers challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred."O: The Oprah Magazine

    "[A] beautiful, empathetic novel."The Boston Globe
    "A witty, compassionate, swiftly paced novel that takes on race, immigration, family and the dangers of capitalist excess."St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    "Mbue [is] a deft, often lyrical observer. . . . [Her] meticulous storytelling announces a writer in command of her gifts."—Minneapolis Star Tribune
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    Awards-
    About the Author-
    • Imbolo Mbue is a native of the seaside town of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a BS from Rutgers University and an MA from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for more than a decade, she lives in New York City.
      Behold the Dreamers, her critically acclaimed debut novel, won the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was named by The New York Times and The Washington Post as one of the notable books of 2016. It was also named as a best book of 2016 by NPR, Kirkus Reviews, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The novel also won the 2017 Blue Metropolis Words to Change Prize.
    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      June 13, 2016
      From Cameroonian Mbue comes a debut novel about two immigrants struggling to find their footing in a new world. When Jende Jonga journeys to New York City from Cameroon in 2004 on a visitors’ visa in hopes of obtaining a green card, he’s sure his life will only improve. After saving up enough money to bring over Jende’s wife, Neni, and six-year-old son, the family moves into an apartment in Harlem. Then Jende hits the jackpot in 2007 when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a wealthy Lehman Brothers executive. But working for the Edwardses isn’t as cushy and above board as Jende expected. Clark’s long hours at the office and frequent late-night “appointments” at the Chelsea Hotel raise red flags with his wife, Cindy. When Neni agrees to accompany the Edwards family to Southampton as a temporary nanny for their youngest son, she learns far more than she bargained for about Cindy’s fragile mental state. Before long, the pressure of keeping what they know about Clark and Cindy—and the threat of deportation—becomes too much for the Jongas to bear, threatening the stability of their marriage and their ability to remain in a country they still can’t call home. Mbue’s reliance on overheard phone conversations to forward the plot makes for choppy reading, and the tenor of the Edwardses’ rich-people problems is nothing new. But the Jongas are much more vivid, and the book’s unexpected ending—and its sharp-eyed focus on issues of immigration, race, and class—speak to a sad truth in today’s cutthroat world: the American dream isn’t what it seems. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House.

    • Kirkus

      Starred review from May 1, 2016
      The American dream is put to the test by the economic disaster of 2007. Among the spate of novels forged in the crucible of the previous decade, Mbue's impressive debut deserves a singular place. This diversely peopled and crisply narrated story follows the trajectories of two Manhattan families, one at the top of the social heap and the other at the bottom. In the foreground is Jende Jonga, an immigrant from Cameroon, his wife, Neni, studying to be a pharmacist, and their young son. When Jende, who has been working as a dishwasher, scores a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a muckety-muck at Lehman Brothers with a troubled wife and similarly aged son, the fates of the Jongas and the Edwardses become entwined. Except for a nagging immigration problem being handled by a lousy lawyer, things go very well at first. Jende loves dressing up in a suit and driving a Lexus while Clark conducts endless cellphone conversations and laptop machinations in the back seat. Neni excels in school and becomes pregnant with a child who will be born a U.S. citizen. Then, during her summer hiatus in the Hamptons, Mrs. Edwards hires Neni to help with child care. One day she finds her employer disheveled and crashed out at midday; around this time, Clark starts having Jende take him for one-hour visits to the Chelsea Hotel. Cracks in the Edwards marriage are paralleled by trouble for the Jongas, too. Yet the magnitude of the catastrophe makes itself clear only slowly--particularly to immigrant eyes, dazzled by everything from shopping at Pathmark to the presidency of Obama to the freedom of Occupy protesters to demonstrate without being rounded up and thrown into prison. They will learn. Realistic, tragic, and still remarkably kind to all its characters, this is a special book.

      COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    • Library Journal

      March 1, 2016
      Impeccably written, socially informed, in development by Sony Pictures, and an exemplar of the tremendous new writing emerging from Africa, Cameroon-born Mbue's big debut opens in 2007 New York. Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga is overjoyed when he lucks into a job as chauffeur for one-percenter Clark Edwards, and his wife, Neni, is subsequently hired as household help. Alas, troubles in the Edwards marriage edge into the lives of the Jongas. Then comes the economic crash of 2008--and Clark is a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Lots of library marketing.

      Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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      Random House Publishing Group
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