I read Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers for CBR8, and I’ve included my original review link here. F has chosen this for our February book club, and I’m excited to discuss it with the group. I am trying not to re-read books, since my TBR is enormous, but I was very glad to revisit this novel. In the wake of the 2016 election, the topic of immigrants and their American Dreams takes on an added importance today as we shape policy (or, in the case of the current administration, lack thereof) to help them stay and build a life here in America.
What struck me in this re-read was the connection between race and class as immigrants in the United States. Jende and Neni have a concept of America from TV and product placement, yet they don’t realize until they live in the United States just how deep racial divides run. As immigrants, they are directly caught in the crosshairs, and they don’t see how Lehman Brothers and the 2008 recession will impact them most directly.
It’s heartbreaking to read about people who seek a better life only to find that they have to work inordinately hard in order to make it “rich.” In fact, the American Dream is an ephemeral and often unrealistic fantasy for any but the richest and whitest of people who have an economic security net upon which to fall. What also struck me was the way that white women, in their quest to “have it all,” rely upon the labor of poor women in order to climb the social and corporate ladder. I’ll definitely be including this novel in my teaching rotation in the future.
Cross-posted to my blog.