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Extended Audio Sample Behold the Dreamers: A Novel, by Imbolo Mbue Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Imbolo Mbue Narrator: Prentice Onayemi Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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For fans of Americanah and The Lowland comes a debut novel about an immigrant couple striving to get ahead as the Great Recession hits home.

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at their summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ facades.

Then the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Desperate to keep Jende’s job, which grows more tenuous by the day, the Jongas try to protect the Edwardses from certain truths, even as their own marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

With profound empathy, keen insight, and sly wit, Imbolo Mbue has written a compulsively readable story about marriage, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A fresh, engaging entry…of what it means to be an American—and how human beings, not laws or dogma, define liberty.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • Mbue proves herself a clear-eyed, unflinching storyteller, and Behold the Dreamers is a fearless, head-on journey into the thorny contemporary issues of American exceptionalism. Interview Magazine
  • Gripping and beautifully told. Good Housekeeping
  • Mbue’s outsider’s perceptions of American life—its stresses, its excesses—are sharp. . . . She’s also shrewd on the disruptions that come with the Jongas leaving their native land for a dream that may be a delusion. The Seattle Times
  • An utterly unique novel about immigration, race, and class—and an important one, as well. BookPage
  • Mbue writes with great confidence and warmth. . . . There are a lot of spinning plates and Mbue balances them skillfully, keeping everything in motion. . . . Behold the Dreamers is a capacious, big-hearted novel. The New York Times Book Review
  • [Mbue’s] book isn’t the first work of fiction to grapple with the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, but it’s surely one of the best. . . . Behold the Dreamers is a remarkable debut. Mbue is a wonderful writer with an uncanny ear for dialogue—there are no false notes here, no narrative shortcuts, and certainly no manufactured happy endings. It’s a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American. NPR
  • Imbolo Mbue would be a formidable storyteller anywhere, in any language. It’s our good luck that she and her stories are American. Jonathan Franzen, National Book Award–winning author of Purity and Freedom
  • Dazzling, fast-paced, and exquisitely written, Behold the Dreamers is one of those rare novels that will change the way you see the world. Imbolo Mbue is a breathtaking talent. Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
  • Who is this Imbolo Mbue and where has she been hiding? Her writing is startlingly beautiful, thoughtful, and both timely and timeless. She’s taking on everything from family to the Great Recession to immigration while deftly reminding us what it means to truly believe in ‘the American Dream.’ Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn
  • It’s rare that a book is so fascinating, so emotionally compelling, and so beautiful that I literally can’t put it down. I picked Behold the Dreamers up one evening before bed. I turned the last page at dawn. It ruined the next day for me—I wasn’t much good for anything but a nap—but it was worth every lost hour. Ayelet Waldman, New York Times bestselling author of Love and Treasure
  • In the near decade since the onset of the Great Recession, few works of fiction have examined what those years felt like for everyday people, how so many continued to hope and plan and love amid pervasive uncertainty. Enter Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian American who situates her characters of US shores just as prosperity is beginning to seem like a thing of the past. . . . Behold the Dreamers challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred. O: The Oprah Magazine
  • Behold the Dreamers reveals Mbue as a deft, often lyrical observer. . . . [Her] meticulous storytelling announces a writer in command of her gifts, plumbing the desires and disappointments of our emerging global culture. Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • At once a sad indictment of the American dream and a gorgeous testament to the enduring bonds of family, Mbue’s powerful first novel will grip and move you right up to its heartfelt ending. Shelf Awareness
  • A fresh, engaging entry into the eternally evolving narrative of what it means to be an American—and how human beings, not laws or dogma, define liberty. Entertainment Weekly
  • Even as Behold the Dreamers takes some dark, vicious turns, it never feels cheaply cynical, grounded as it is in the well-imagined characters who try, through whatever means possible, to protect their families and better their lives. USA Today
  • In Imbolo Mbue’s sprightly debut . . . songs of innocence and arrogance collide. Vogue
  • Imagine Lorraine Hansberry’s play/film A Raisin in the Sun with a Cameroonian cast of characters in early twenty-first century New York City, and you may come up with something close to Behold the Dreamers, a poignant and bittersweet debut. San Francisco Chronicle
  • A beautiful book about one African couple starting a new life in a new land, Behold the Dreamers will teach you as much about the promise and pitfalls of life in the United States as about the immigrants who come here in search of the so-called American dream. Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey and winner of the Pulitzer Prize
  • “A fast-paced, engaging read with an interesting cross-cultural background. Library Journal
  • The Jongas are . . . vivid, and the book’s unexpected ending—and its sharp-eyed focus on issues of immigration, race, and class—speak to a sad truth in today’s cutthroat world: the American dream isn’t what it seems. Publishers Weekly
  • At once an ode to New York City and an elegy for the American Dream, Behold the Dreamers reads like a film, shuttling effortlessly between a Cameroonian chauffeur’s Harlem and an investment banker’s Upper East Side. This is a novel populated by characters so textured they feel like friends: an immigrant with big dreams and limited options; a banker desperate to do better than he’s done; a mother, a student and wife determined to express her humanity fully in the world. There are no heroes in this marvelous debut, only nuanced human beings. A classic tale with a surprise ending, as deeply insightful as it is entertaining. Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go
  • Mbue’s fantastic debut is much more than an immigrant story, a tale of the 2007 financial collapse, or the intersections of the rich and poor in New York—it’s about how the American Dream can fail anyone, and whether hope can survive. An empathetic, timely, and deeply welcome novel. J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
  • Eminently readable, deeply empathetic, and often humorous, Behold the Dreamers offers the stark reality of the American Dream as we rarely see it in fiction. In its pages, Americans are made, fortunes are won and lost, and America’s flawed dream-makers and its striving dreamers clash and come alive. With forthright prose and unforgettable characters, Behold the Dreamers is a subversive delight. Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Green Island
  • “Mbue’s writing is warm and captivating.”


  • “Well-imagined characters who try, through whatever means possible, to protect their families and better their lives.”

    USA Today

  • Challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “A dissection of the American Dream.”

    New York Times

  • “Illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse…Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller.”

    Washington Post

  • “A clever morality tale that never preaches but instead teaches us the power of integrity.”


  • ”In Imbolo Mbue’s sprightly debut…songs of innocence and arrogance collide.”


  • “[A] beautiful, empathetic novel…vivid, complex, and essential.”

    Boston Globe

  • “A witty, compassionate, swiftly paced novel that takes on race, immigration, family, and the dangers of capitalist excess.”

    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • “Will have you feeling for each character from the moment you crack it open.”

    In Style
  • “Realistic, tragic, and still remarkably kind to all its characters, this is a special book.“

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Narrator Prentice Onayemi invigorates the listener with a steady pace and musical intonation…Onayemi’s distinctive accents ensure that the listener can differentiate between the the African immigrants and the American characters featured in this story of the American dream…Onayemi is especially touching in his portrayal of Neni, the Cameroonian mother and wife; he even sings a few lines of her African dialect. Most importantly, he makes the two different cultural worlds depicted in the novel vivid and fully believable. As Onayemi takes us on the emotional journeys of the characters, it’s a delightful and at times discomforting experience—but well worth the listen.”


  • Longlisted for the 2017 Carnegie Medal for Literature
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for August 2016
  • A People Pick of the Week
  • A Washington Post Best Audiobook of 2016 Selection
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