About a year ago after finishing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s honest yet loving novel, “Americanah,” I was on a mission to find a like-minded author whose work could illustrate a part of America that I was keen on better understanding: immigration. I found said-detail in Imbolo Mbue’s “Behold The Dreamers,” which takes place in early the 2000s and New York City.
A disclaimer that I find necessary to add, before I state my opinion and summary of the book, is that with this novel I found a problem that too often I put it down, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. Although I was heavily interested in the story, I neglected to afford the time for it. Alas, a year has gone by, and today I finished it. I felt like that was important to admit. Now you’re up to speed.
The story takes you through the perspective of its two main characters, Jende and Neni, husband and wife, as they live through a chain of events. By doing so with each chapter, it creates a personal voice for the two. They are not just names that help keep the story organized, but rather they are people whom readers can recognize just by flow of verbiage. (I know that I may seem ramble-y when talking about this aspect of the novel, but throughout my reading career I’ve grown a specific liking to authors that use this device to their advantage. Emma Straub does a great job at personalizing her characters with this system, and Adichie used it as well in “Americanah.”)
Aside from an analysis on the quality of writing and character building, I also enjoyed it for its honest telling of a reality that many suffer as immigrants in our country. There is the classic representation of America being a symbol for freedom and opportunity, while also present is the harsh truth that the grass may just seem greener on the other side.
I cannot put to words the highlights of the story without doing it an injustice, plus it took me a scattered year of corner folding to finally complete it. All that I can say is my own opinion, which is that it truly enlightened me on a part of America I’ve never been involved with or even fully aware of its realities. It awakened the same spirit that was brought about from “Americanah.” And while I feel naïve and ignorant for my previous neglect of America’s insufficient immigration system, I also feel empowered to do what I can with this information and opportunity. With that being said, I trust that you’ll read it yourself, and maybe you’ll find a new understanding for the Dreamers as well.
Thanks for reading,