This book summary of Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue gives you the details of this incredibly page-turning Oprah's Book Club book about the American Dream. And because this is a book pairings blog “where books meet lifestyle,” I have also provided some quotes from the book and recommended pairings for further learning.
Summary of Behold the Dreamers
New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers is a compulsively readable, suspenseful and engrossing story of the American Dream from differing perspectives.
Jende is an immigrant from Cameroon in Africa, living in Harlem, as he has moved to the United States to pursue the American dream for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son.
In the fall of 2007, Jende gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark’s wife, Cindy, thereafter offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons.
But these jobs open Jende's and Neni's eyes to observations of a darker side of the American dream at play in their employers' lives. As the economy crashes, all of their lives and their ideas of the American dream forever change with such suspense that you will not be able to stop turning the pages.
Behold the Dreamers really forces you to re-think the American Dream and how it differs for people and circumstances.
Quotes from Behold the Dreamers
I don't know if I can continue suffering like this just because I want to live in America.
Indeed, bad news has a way of slithering into good days and making a mockery of complacent joys.
Our people say no condition is permanent, Mr. Edwards. Good times must come to an end, just like bad times, whether we want it or not.
His years on earth had taught him that good things happen to those who honor the kindheartedness of others.
It's the fear that kills us, Leah," Jende said. "Sometimes it happens and it's not even as bad as the fear. That is what I have learned in this life. It is the fear.
In America today, having documents is not enough. Look at how many people with papers are struggling. Look at how even some Americans are suffering. They were born in this country.
How could anyone have so much happiness and unhappiness skillfully wrapped up together?
For more like Behold the Dreamers:
- Check out Such a Fun Age, which similarly tackles race and class in a modern and nuanced way between employer and employee, and it also makes you question whether the complex characters are good or bad.
- I also challenge you to journal about the characters' ideas of the American Dream and your idea of the American Dream, and whether this is a fixed or fluid concept.
- Lastly, you can also check out my list of "Black Lives Matter" books.
I sincerely hope this book summary of Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue inspires you to pick up this important book and/or continue to learn more about American immigration issues.