Jende Jonga and his family immigrate to the US from Cameroon in pursuit of a better life in the novel Behold the Dreamers: A Novel. After Jende gains employment as a chauffeur for a wealthy businessman and his family, the two families’ stories become inextricably tied together as circumstances get increasingly complex and the recession of 2008 looms.
Author Imbolo Mbue–herself from Cameroon–explores cultural stress, crosscultural friendships and misunderstandings, and the promises and pitfalls of the American dream with a nonchalance that belies her incisiveness. Every character is deeply flawed and deeply sympathetic, including the “characters” of America and Cameroon.
This richly-detailed novel is quality literature in it’s own right, but it is also a valuable tool for welcomers to see through the eyes of immigrants for a few hundred pages, to walk with these characters through the ups and downs of adjusting to a different culture, and to realize how hard and complex it is to put down roots in tenuous and shifting new soil.
Had I not been reading a Kindle version of this book from the library, I would have been highlighting passages like I did my intercultural studies textbooks. Pick it up as a fun “beach read,” but be prepared to come away with a lot to chew on.