The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Find a quote from page 56.
And a review, of sorts, to follow...
Title: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
"He'd never been asked to wear a suit to a job interview."Friday 56:
"Jende sat up in his chair, clasped his hands on his lap, and began telling his story."Summary: Jende Jonga arrived in America in 2007 on a visitor's visa from Cameroon in West Africa. He struggles to make a living and to find a way to get a green card. His wife Neni is granted a student visa so she and their six-year-old join him in New York. When Jende gets a job, after wearing a suit to the interview, as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, an executive for Lehman's Brothers on Wall Street, life is definitely looking up for the couple. They are able to set aside some money, in addition to what they send home, so it seems like the American dream is within their grasp. But then two things happen. First, Lehman Brothers fails and the biggest recession to hit the US in fifty years starts, leaving many without jobs. Secondly, immigration officials contact Jende who feels compelled to tell a lie about why he should be allowed to stay in the US since his visa has expired. When Jende gets in the middle of the marital problems between his boss and his wife, he loses his job. The dream seems to evaporate over night.
Review: I read Behold the Dreamers as a book club selection and because it was a highlighted book in my community. The story contains a very relevant theme in today's news: illegal immigration. Jende and his wife want a piece of the American dream where, if you work hard and save, it is possible to make something of yourself. But even as things start going wrong for them, they can't help but compare their experiences in the US with those they left behind in Cameroon. They told the immigration judge that they had to stay in the US because Neni's father would kill Jende if they returned, but this story was not true. It was just a made-up story by their lawyer. As I read this part, I had to reflect on the reasons that so many people are trying to get into the USA today, even though immigration folks are locking them up the moment they get here. I've heard that many feel that their life was in danger in their own country. Yet, one never really knows if it is true or if they just want to be part of the American dream. No one deserves to be treated poorly when they enter the USA, but certainly we can do better at making the process a true legal process that has path toward citizenship. Sigh. The book helped me think through many ideas around immigration and what really makes a place "home."
Interestingly, the author, Imbolo Mbue, is from Limbe, Cameroon herself, but now lives in New York City and has become an American citizen. It would be interesting to hear her own story of immigration to this country. I listened to the audiobook for Behold the Dreamer read by Prentice Onayemi, who was able to do the accent to sound authentic.
(SOTH Book Club selection for August 2019)