Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

A Novel

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
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At the intersection of "Americanah" and "The Help" comes a riveting debut novel about two marriages - one immigrant and working class, the other from the top 1% - both chasing their version of the American Dream. In the fall of 2007, Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Their situation only improves when Jende's wife Neni is hired as household help. But in the course of their work, Jende and Neni begin to witness infidelities, skirmishes, and family secrets. Then, with the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, a tragedy changes all four lives forever, and the Jongas must decide whether to continue fighting to stay in a recession-ravaged America or give up and return home to Cameroon.
Published: New York :, Random House,, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780812998481
0812998480
Branch Call Number: F MBU
Characteristics: 382 pages ;,25 cm

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b
becker
Sep 06, 2017

This book is about a couple from Cameroon who are living in New York City and are actively trying to secure their papers so they can stay. It is also about an American couple who hire the African husband to be their chauffeur. The two families become involved somewhat in each other's lives and we see both the joys as well as the struggles that both couples face. What I loved about this book was how you get to see things from every side. The good and bad of both the rich American family as well as the immigrant family. I didn't think there were any obvious villains in this story. Each character had strong and weak qualities and they were all just doing the best they could in their own lives which were messy at times. I liked all of them, despite their flaws. This was a very readable and engaging story.

b
brangwinn
Sep 03, 2017

This is the kind of book that remains with me. When I look at an immigrant, I realize I don’t understand the issues they are dealing with at all in a foreign culture. Yes, America is great, but if you are among the many families struggling for legitimate visas, worrying about deportation trying to raise a family while being subservient to employers who hold the key to everything in your life, life is much different that for those of us born here. The image of a duck calm on top of the water, yet paddling as hard as they can came to mind while I was reading this book. I loved the juxtaposition of the Cameroonian family working for a wealthy Wall Street banking family. Each had their own problems. One involved the use of drugs and alcohol and denial of how they got to be in such an envied position and the other the determined effort of a family for education and a salary that would allow them to meet the monthly necessities.

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spiderfelt_0
Sep 03, 2017

The book captured my attention right away, but as the story progressed, the characters began acting in surprising ways. While several people have said this is a book about immigration, I think it is also a commentary on marriage and the impact of stress on well-being. Even though I didn't love the book, i would still recommend it, simply because we need to read more stories centered around the struggles of the working poor.

d
dontbugmeimreading
Jul 19, 2017

A good story of a couple with a son trying to make it as illegal immigrants in New York City. Not a book I would have picked up on my own, so, thank-you Oprah for recommending it. Wish it had recipes for some of the Cameroonian dishes mentioned throughout the book, or at least a glossary explaining what they were. (I googled Puff-Puff and they resemble Timbits.)

archreads Jul 18, 2017

A compelling look at the current immigrant experience through the eyes of a young family from Cameroon immigrating to NYC and trying to obtain citizenship.

debwalker Jun 28, 2017

June 28 2017: Oprah Winfrey has chosen Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers as the latest Oprah's Book Club Pick. The debut novel tells the story of two fathers--a working-class immigrant from Cameroon who is hired as a chauffeur by a top Lehman Brothers executive in the fall of 2007, just before the financial crisis--and how their families become inextricably linked.

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NWPLindabear
Mar 05, 2017

This is a highly topical book given everything that is happening with immigration and refugees in North America. And very readable, although the writing was a bit amateurish at times, which is somewhat fair given this is the author's first book. At times, the dialogue given, particularly when the rich, employer was on the phone, read like a high school play. Being a parent, I kept wondering where the heck Jende and Neni's kids were. They lived in this tiny apartment, but would have these long arguments and the kids would conveniently sleep through them? Yeah, no way. I was also put off by the attempt to make the reader feel sympathetic for the rich family. Rich people have problems too! Right, but it detracted from the more important immigrant story, which was compelling and felt genuinely chaotic. Throughout the book, my gut ached for Jende and Neni and their disparate emotional struggles with trying to stay in the United States. In spite of what I recognize as my own nitpicking with the writing, I would recommend this book and I do look forward to reading more works by this author in the future as her writing develops.

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dwalkbels
Feb 02, 2017

This is one of my top all time favourite books to read. An eye opening novel that helps one see things that are happening within our world from a different and frank perspective. I thank the author for sharing it.

Michael Colford Dec 22, 2016

Imbolo Mbue's debut novel is a highly readable modern tale of immigration and the challenges faced with tackling the American Dream... especially during a recession. Jende comes to America from Cameroon with big dreams, and through the help of an earlier transplant, his cousin Winston, gets a job as a chaffeur for a wealthy, Wall Street executive, Mr. Clark, driving him, his wife and two kids around and making a fairly good salary doing it. Certainly a salary that is astronomically more than he would make in Cameroon. His pregnant wife, Nemi, and their son arrive soon after, and she embarks on an educational mission to become a pharmacist. It's all going wonderfully, with savings accumulating and bosses who appreciate them, but there's one problem. they're in the country illegally, and despite the fact that it takes months for any action to be taken, it is likely they will be deported sometime in the future.

Then fortunes turn as Wall Street implodes. Their lives, so optimistic and seemingly certain, take a precarious dive as their relationship with the Clarks and with each other, start to fray. Mbue captures the essence of the ups and downs of the immigrant experience beautifully, and while there is an element of char throughout, the challenges faced by those struggling to make it in America is not downplayed. This is a debut novel that demands attention, and resonates strongly with today's America.

Riddlereads Dec 19, 2016

Behold the Dreamers takes us back to the beginning of the Great Recession--a time when so many were losing jobs and homes. The focus of the novel is on a family who emigrated from Cameroon and wanted desperately to make a life for themselves in the U.S. It's both heart-wrenching and surprising; you never know what you're capable of until your dream is threatened. Although it takes place in the recent past, I would still recommend it for lovers of historical fiction.

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