Jende Jonga’s new job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive, marks a shift in his newly immigrated family’s luck. They are on the cusp of achieving the American dream. By all outward appearances, the Edwards personify this dream, but Jende and his wife Neni learn that Clark’s success has come at a price. When the global financial crisis hits, both families reach their breaking points.
Country Focus: Cameroon
Behold the Dreamers
By Imbolo Mbue
Published by Random House, 2016.
About the author: Behold the Dreamers is Mbue’s first novel. The Cameroonian native lives in New York City.
“So why are you here?”
“I am sorry, sir?”
“Why did you come to America if your town is so beautiful?”
Jende laughed, a brief uneasy laugh. “But sir,” he said. “America is America.”
“I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.”
“Everyone wants to come to America, sir. Everyone. To be in this country, sir. To live in this country. Ah! It is the greatest thing in the world, Mr. Edwards.”
“That still doesn’t tell me why you’re here.”
Jende thought for a second; he thought about what to say without saying too much. “Because my country is no good, sir,” he said. “It is nothing like America. I stay in my country, I would have become nothing. I would have remained nothing. My son will grow up and be poor like me, just like I was poor like my father. But in America, sir? I can become something. I can even become a respectable man. My son can become a respectable man.”
“And that could never happen in your country?”
“Never, Mr. Edwards.”