Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

eBook - 2016
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Random House, Inc.
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

New York Times Bestseller • Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award • Longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award • An ALA Notable Book

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

Baker & Taylor
Two marriages, one immigrant working class and the other from the top one percent, are shaped by financial circumstances, infidelities, secrets and the 2008 recession. A first novel.

Publisher: Random House Digital,, 2016
ISBN: 9780812998498
Characteristics: 1 online resource
Additional Contributors: Baker & Taylor Axis 360
Alternative Title: Axis 360 eBooks


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AL_JODY Feb 22, 2018

A novel about two young immigrants from Africa who come to New York City. Through hard work they thrive and begin to raise their family. But overwhelming challenges with the immigration system send them back home to Africa.

Jan 31, 2018

Not sure if I would have found this without Oprah, so yeah, Oprah for President?... Seriously this was great. The story and characters were so real, you didn't know who to root for. You learn that family is more than money, and at time more than dreams. Do yourself a favor, read this, and then engage an immigrant to listen to their story as well.

Chapel_Hill_KatieJ Jan 22, 2018

Jende and Neni are immigrants from Cameroon who live in Harlem. The book begins with Jende getting a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, an executive at Lehman Brothers. Neni attends community college with the goal of becoming a pharmacist. The book is set during the 2008 Presidential Election, and right before the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that contributed to the Great Recession. As Jende’s immigration status becomes more and more tenuous, Neni decides she will do just about anything in order to raise her children in America. Neni is the strongest character, and her actions are the most interesting parts of the book. The Edwards family is less developed, and comes across as a caricature of rich people. Perhaps that was the point though, that this generic rich couple has no idea of how much their actions affect individuals like Jende and Neni, thousands of Lehman Brothers employees, and their own children.

Dec 04, 2017

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is an astonishing debut novel about immigration to America. The author's writes with clarity and suspense, keeping the reader riveted to the story. One of the three best books I've read in 2017.

Dec 02, 2017

Another great "first novel" with a surprise ending. Her story gives one much to think about and to discuss about the immigrant story (myth?) in America.

Oct 25, 2017

Involving and empathetic debut novel about an immigrant family struggling to make it in New York City. These are the kind of books that we need to be reading right now. Author Imbolo Mbue is originally from Cameroon. I'd also suggest "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche.

ehbooklover Oct 17, 2017

A compulsively readable book about the experiences of two very different families in New York City during the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the recession that followed it. I loved the complicated and flawed characters as well as the unpredictable ending.

Oct 11, 2017

A very timely novel about hard-working 'dreamers' hoping to make a new and better life for themselves and their children in the US. The author details two very different marriages, with very different ways of approaching life's struggles, and as she happens to also be a 'dreamer', although in her case a successful one in that she has achieved green card status, I'm thinking her portrayal is particularly honest and to the point. I'm not American, I live in Canada, but we see headlines from south of us all the time, and in my estimation the current attitudes towards immigrants are very well depicted in this book.

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.

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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AL_MARYA Sep 27, 2017

Jalaluddin Rumi, the Sufi mystic. He’s the one who said, ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.’ Which was his own way of saying, ‘Let’s not dwell too much on labeling things as right or wrong.


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