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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Contemporary fiction

Behold the Dreamers


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Imbolo Mbue, on your first book!

by Imbolo Mbue

Quick take

I fell in love with these characters, their friends and relatives... I still hear their voices in my head, still wonder what they're doing and if they're happy.

Why I love it

Perfectly situated during the financial crisis of 2008, Behold the Dreamers is a sublime exploration of our country's enduring and questionable promise: the American Dream. This dazzling debut revolves around two very different New York families in a familiar and inevitably fraught relationship: the wealthy privileged employer, and the aspiring immigrant employee. The beauty of the book resides in the voices of the latter.

The story is told from the viewpoint of the ebullient Jende Jonga, an immigrant from Cameroon, and his wife, Neni, who recently joined her husband in America with their young son. Their dream? A green card for Jende; a future in America. When Jende is hired as a chauffeur for a high-flying Lehman Brothers executive and his wife and two sons, it seems like the luckiest of breaks. But soon the two families will become entwined in ways that are both fruitful and destructive.

Once I started this book, I couldn't stop. I fell in love with Jende and Neni, their friends and relatives, their New York. I was deeply invested in their joy and sacrifice, determination and hope. I was bereft when I reached the last page because I didn't want to let go of their story. I still hear their voices in my head, still wonder what they're doing and if they're happy.

That Mbue manages to deftly turn critical issues like immigration, marital conflict and class disparity into a revelatory page-turner is a testament to her storytelling gifts, which are immense. Smart, funny, full-throated, Behold the Dreamers will get under your skin and cling to your heart in the way only the best books can. These characters will walk beside me for a very long time.

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Member ratings (1,969)

  • Jessica G.

    Pikesville, MD

    I don’t know why I waited so long to read this book, after years of it being recommended to me. What a beautiful heart-gripping story of the immigrant experience, a story told differently than often.

  • Adriana W.


    This book is just WOW! The characters really felt like full complex lovable human beings, and they carry the story so well. The writing style is also nothing to scoff at. The best book I read in 2016.

  • Corrie M.

    Manassas, VA

    Engaging read on an immigrant narrative, diving into struggles, regarding race and class, but also the resilience and drive shown by the main characters. Family drama & questions of home kept me wrapt

  • Paul M.

    Seaside, CA

    A beautiful paean to the immigrant struggle in America- in this case, a family from Africa in NYC. The characters feel like real people struggling, succeeding, failing, despairing, and finding beauty.

  • Erin R.

    Lake Orion, MI

    I found this book so relevant to the times we are living in currently. The perspectives of Jende and Neni were interesting - their perceptions of Americans, how they defined success, their goals, etc.