Behold the Dreamers

In an accomplished and timely debut, Imbolo Mbue tears away the veil from the American Dream and measures both the uphill grind to achieve it and the lightning-quick ease of losing it.

After three years in Harlem waiting for Immigration Services to process his application for asylum, Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga thinks he can see the light at the end of the tunnel. His lawyer assures him asylum will be granted any day, and his wife, Neni, and six-year-old son, Liomi, have joined him at last after years of separation. In the New York City of late 2007, all things seem possible. With Neni in college and on track for pharmacy school, and the plum chauffeur job Jende's cousin Winston found for him, the family's dreams are coming true. Jende admires his new boss Clark Edwards, a senior investment banker at Lehman Brothers, and eventually Neni begins working part-time for the Edwardses at their summer home. But despite their initial impression of the Edwards family as elegant, happy and perfect, the Jongas quickly begin to observe fissures. 

Behold the Dreamers approaches a difficult subject from a vulnerable perspective. Mbue, herself a Cameroonian native who emigrated to New York 10 years ago, keeps her story intimate rather than didactic by focusing tightly on her characters' reactions to their circumstances instead of the politics behind them. At once a sad indictment of the American Dream and a gorgeous testament to the enduring bonds of family, Mbue's powerful first novel will grip and move you right up to its heartfelt ending. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

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