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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Contemporary fiction

Behold the Dreamers

Debut

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

by Imbolo Mbue

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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.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, 400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Social_Issues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Immigration

    Immigration

  • Illustrated icon, NYC

    NYC

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.

Member ratings (2,038)

  • 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.

  • Corrie M.

    Philadelphia, PA

    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

  • Krista H.

    FREEHOLD, NJ

    Multi-dimensional representation of immigrants and their hopes and struggles upon coming to America. This is an important and timely work that should be required reading for Americans. Beautiful story

  • 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.

  • Adriana W.

    BROOKLYN, NY

    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.

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Contemporary fiction
View all
The Last Love Note
Anita de Monte Laughs Last
Honey
The Leftover Woman
The Same Bright Stars
Bye, Baby
Swan Song
The Connellys of County Down
Joe Nuthin’s Guide to Life
Jackpot Summer
Adelaide
The Collected Regrets of Clover
Again and Again
Evil Eye
Black Cake
Maame
Romantic Comedy
Someone Else’s Shoes
Once There Were Wolves
We Are the Brennans
The Bad Muslim Discount
What Comes After
Olga Dies Dreaming
Last Summer at the Golden Hotel
Monster in the Middle
My Dark Vanessa
Nine Perfect Strangers
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes
Honey Girl
In Every Mirror She's Black
Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband?
Sankofa
The Unsinkable Greta James
The Love of My Life
The Five-Star Weekend
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
The Wishing Game
Behold the Dreamers
The Mothers
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Little Fires Everywhere
The Music Shop
Queenie
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
The Reckless Oath We Made
Dear Edward
When We Were Vikings
The Girl with the Louding Voice
Anxious People
A Good Neighborhood
Big Summer
All Adults Here
Happy & You Know It
Friends and Strangers
The Comeback
True Story
The Last Story of Mina Lee
Troubles in Paradise
White Ivy
This Close to Okay
The Chicken Sisters
The Prophets
The Kindest Lie
In a Book Club Far Away
The Other Black Girl
Apples Never Fall
A Quiet Life
We Are the Light
The Most Likely Club
The Fortunes of Jaded Women
When We Were Bright and Beautiful
The Hotel Nantucket