The 2019 ATY Reading Challenge prompt #36 is a book featured on the NPR Best Books of the Year list. Since my goal for the year was to read as many books I already own as possible, I went hunting through the NPR Best Books lists to see if I could find one that I own. I found Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue on the 2016 list. I had heard enough good reviews on this book, and been intrigued enough by it, that I picked it up when I ran across a good deal on the ebook.
Behold the Dreamers is the story of two families in pursuit of the American Dream. One is Jende Jonga and his wife Neni, Cameroonian immigrants living in Harlem. The other family is that of Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers.
It is a step up for Jende when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Mr. Edwards. In fact, their situation seems to be changing only for the better. They have hope also, that their immigrant status will improve. Jende and his wife feel they have at last gained a foothold in America and dare to imagine a brighter future.
However, as the recession of 2008 brings down many financial giants – Lehman Brothers included – Jende’s future is now hopelessly dependent on that of Clark’s. As Clark’s world unravels, Jende’s hopes disintegrate as well. Jende and his wife find themselves faced with the terrible decision of whether to return to their home country of Cameroon.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. To be honest, I was bothered by the actions the characters were willing to carry out in pursuit of their dreams – both the desperate immigrant on the edge of poverty and the wealthy elite. The book is written well enough, I just found I couldn’t relate much to anyone in the story.