The novel Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue links the lives of two families in distinct spheres of American society. The Jongas, a Cameroonian immigrant family, live in Harlem, and the Edwards, an upper-class family, enjoy a privileged life characterized by vacations to the Hamptons.
The author focuses on immigration and aspects of the immigrant experience in the U.S. and uses the backdrop of the Great Recession of the late 2000s to tell a captivating story. The writing is tender and honest, and each character’s experience is treated with honor and grace. The closeness we feel for the Jonga family does not limit our sympathy for the Edwards.
Though we have different life experiences, at our core, we are all human.
A theme that stands out is that of return migration. The author does not write about immigration in this way, but Jende Jonga’s decision certainly provides evidence that migration is not a one-way experience for many immigrants. Some immigrants choose to return to their country of origin for many reasons, including a new realization of what life in America might mean for them and their family.
I am pleased that the author told this story. A story of choosing to return home—wherever that is for you—when your dreams do not pan out the way you envisioned.
It is indeed possible to dream bold dreams, have them deferred, and then dream again.
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