Friday, August 18, 2017

The Dreams of Immigrants

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I've just read Behold the Dreamers an award-winning debut novel by Imbolo Imbue. Imbue is originally from the African nation of Cameroon, which most of us couldn't find on a map, if we're honest. The novel is about the immigrant experience, for a Cameroonian couple, Jende and Neni, who are barely making ends meet in New York City. Jende lands a job as the chauffeur for a Wall Street investor with Lehman Brothers, one of the companies which eventually collapsed during the economic crisis of nearly a decade ago. It seems like a dream job but the undercurrents of American society in a time of greed and turmoil are fascinating.

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Both Jende and Neni come to love NYC  and aspire to greater things, working hard, dedicated to achieving a higher education. Of course I can't reveal too much about this compelling story, but I was intrigued that Neni becomes part of a congregation which is accepting, even though she isn't sure if she is a Christian. The worship is subdued compared to the exuberance of her experience back home, but she finds a place there.  The female pastor is wise and encouraging  and willing to help.

It occurred to me the church described in the novel, Judson Memorial, is quite real and I did a bit of research. It turns out that author Mbue has spoken there since the success of her book. I wonder what she association with the congregation might be.  While the church scenes are a minor part of the overall narrative, it was encouraging that the congregation is portrayed in a positive light. The novel as a whole is even more timely given the harsh shift in American immigration policy in the short time since it was published. We certainly have our own challenges with asylum seekers at the moment.

I certainly recommend Behold the Dreamers. Has anyone else read it?  

1 comment:

Laurie said...

Great book.