It’s Friday, y’all! Sit back, relax, grab a goblet, pull up a comfy chair, and snuggle into your weekly read: Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers.
This. Book. Is. So. Poignant. Please, read it.
Mbue’s story follows the Jonga family, (Jende, Neni, and their two children) immigrants from Cameroon attempting to achieve a better life in New York City in the shadow of the 2007 recession.
You can almost feel the tales of countless dreamers that were compiled to create the suffering and struggles of Mbue’s characters. The deep sadness of this story lies in how truthful it is. It paints a picture of an America that does not live up to the dreams it once promised. In fact, it paints a picture of a country that does not have room for anyone that is not well-educated, wealthy, and white. It shows the cruelty of the immigration system and the wage gap and the country’s boundless ability to chew people up and spit them out again.
Over the course of this novel you watch characters you love undergo monstrous transformations, you watch characters you trust act in their own selfish interests, and you watch otherwise moral characters make unbelievable decisions to protect themselves and their family. The point is: America has the power to transform people. Whether as a result of fear, greed, desperation, rage, or love, every character undergoes drastic change at the hands of the “American Dream.”
I found the ending particularly compelling, because (to me, at least) the final line of dialogue is so nuanced and open to interpretation. No spoilers, of course, but look out for that final question and just try to tell me there aren’t a hundred different ways to interpret it.
Now, let’s get to the pairing. This one is kind of hard to pair because the spirit of Cameroon is such a huge character in this story but so is America. So, do I pair with Budweiser? Or do I pair with Castel beer? I think we can all agree that Budweiser sucks ass, but it was definitely the most prominent American beer featured in the story. So, reader’s choice! (Though personally, I’m going Castel.)