Category Archives: Mbue

The American Dream is the Villain of Behold the Dreamers

Something that I’ve heard my entire life is the concept of the “American Dream”. I think it was first introduced to me in elementary school when learning about the Industrial Revolution. It was always talked about in a positive light. That America symbolized something greater than who you were before you entered the country. The idea is that with a dream, you could be anyone or anything. As a 9-year-old, it was honestly pretty inspiring to hear. But also, as a 9-year-old, you never hear the downside of the American dream. That you could work your entire life for something, but someone that was born into better standings could receive it instead of you.

Jende and Neni live with the construct of the American Dream in their heads. The media they have been exposed to in Cameroon tells a story that is completely inaccurate. I, an American citizen for all of her life, do not live like someone on HBO or Showtime show. I do not have the mafia after me, or a warrant out for my arrest. My life is almost completely and utterly boring to what is on cable television. I get excited when I can go to the grocery store, not to some high fashion event like characters on many TV shows.

That’s the idea that many people are fed that live in other countries. They view America as like this “safe haven” where they could seek refuge. That anything could happen if they put their mind to it. That is not true in the slightest. Anything can happen if you have the means to do it. But it is so much more unlikely to be successful if you are not born somewhere that gives you a place to do so. There is such a poverty gap in our country that people can truly never be equal. It’s all about luck.

That’s where I feel bad for Neni and Jende. They are truly trying to be American the right way. Unlike how many immigrants are perceived, they are trying to do everything the way the government wants them to. They just don’t have the given means to do so. It is not as easy as many people believe it to be. So, while hard-working people like the Jongas come to American every day, willing to do undesirable jobs that no one wants, they are turned away. The immigration process takes years to complete, and many hardworking people are just not able to complete it, even with a painstaking amount of effort.

This is where the American Dream fails us. We advertise this perceived life to anyone willing to chase it, but when someone is ready to go the distance; we let them fail. We as a society need to stop advertising something that is not achievable anymore. This is why the American Dream is the villain of Behold the Dreamers. Neni and Jende keep working themselves raw until they achieve something that they believe to be possible. Not that they are stupid for believing so, but because this idea has been given to them their entire lives. And they will not let the idea fade.

Clark’s Character Development

     Clark went from being a cold, secretive executive to a loving father, and it only took the death of his wife and company to realise it. For someone who had lost so much, it all seems to be for the better. From the start, he came across as a stuck up executive who seemed to be hiding things. Even throughout Jende’s interview in the beginning, he was first shown shredding important documents, and half interested in the interview itself. He would look at Jende with “vacant green eyes” and lack of eye contact (Mbue 7). His priority was obviously not there with Jende, but with whatever he had going on in the company. He was so disinterested in contrast to Jende. His hiring of Jende had no effect on Clark, while it meant everything to Jende, who was filled with “desperation” for this job (10). 

     One of the biggest problems with Clark was his inability to balance his work and home life. Cindy complains about it many times on phone calls, and asks him, “why don’t you just work nonstop till next year?” when talking about Clark’s work schedule (34). She definitely felt like both Clark and Vince did not care enough about family life, and states that Vince, like Clark had “no sense of family” (34). On one hand, he is supporting his family with his job. All of the riches, mansions, chauffeur and life of luxury was fueled by his work with the Lehman Brothers. On the other hand, he was severely neglecting his home life. He barely saw his family, and as a result they, especially his wife, felt abandoned and begun to have issues. Whether he knew it or not, his family was falling apart, yet he did nothing about it. He was cheating on his wife constantly as well, which does no good for his familial relationships as well.

     When Cindy died, it was like something awakened within himself. Whatever problems Vince and Clark had, it was somewhat irrelevant now. Clark was disappointed in his son because his son chose to not follow Clark down the path to wealth, instead choosing to live a life of enlightenment in India, without the money and corruption. If Clark was mad at Vince, he may have been partially angry of himself as well. It was revealed later in the book that he loved to write poems and watch the sunset, which is very unlike him, and an unexpected hobby he had. It suggests that he once was like Clark, but instead of choosing the path to Truth, he chose the safe and stable option. After Cindy’s death, and a major wound in his wallet, Clark could finally stop caring so much of his work and secrets, and focus more on Mighty and Vince. He started going to Mighty’s hockey practices, spending time with him, and even calling Vince three times a week and emailing every other day. He was finally caring about his family, and started pursuing things he truly loved, such as writing poems for Mighty. Even though it was sad, as Vince said, “it was really strange how his dad had suddenly become a man who made his life revolve around family” (340).

“Home?”

think that the last word of the book is “Home?” which reflects a big theme in the book. The Jongas tried so desperately to move to become American because of all the opportunities for their children and them. The Jongas felt that because America seemed to provide more opportunities and happiness for their family that Limbe could not be their home anymore. Their Idealistic view of the American dream leads them to move to America and to try to make it as immigrants. To achieve their dream of making it in America, the Jongas struggled and suffered. Living in America for some time made the Jongas see the opportunities that lay they started to make or rather they wanted to make America their home. This view however of the American Dream, however, wasn’t true so they weren’t able to make America their new home. America is a land of immigrants, yet we make it so hard for them to come in. It takes courage and determination to want to leave your home. A lot of these immigrants are hard-working people who want to receive the same opportunities we Americans have. We have so much that even people who don’t consider themselves well of would be considered rich by some immigrants. Immigrants and people of all races are what make America beautiful in my opinion because we can learn from each other, and they can be some valuable stuff learned from another culture. The Jongas however before being able to make America their home choose to leave because they had felt not wanted there anymore. America had betrayed the Jongas because even though they worked hard to make it they still weren’t able to become an American citizen. Since America had passed the Jongas buy they felt that they had to move back to Limbe because that wasn’t their home anymore.” Home” to the Jongas wasn’t just where the family was but where opportunities lay. Most of the time happiness cannot be achieved if they are no opportunities available. Newly Acquired money that would make the Jonga’s rich in Limbe is what made them feel like that could be their home again since the money could bring opportunities. This idea begs the question “What makes a place home?” Does a can one truly feel at home if there lay no opportunities there? Maybe another reason why Vince moved to India was that he felt that there he had more opportunities. Clark and Cindy in a way had been forcing Vince to become a lawyer and so really had no opportunities to be what he wanted to be. Vince might have felt that away from his family and America that he might have more opportunities and freedom to be what he wanted to be. A land of opportunity for the Jongas means earning the money to not only live a grand life but to provide a grand life for their children too. Opportunity for Vince just meant being able to be what he wanted to be instead of being forced to be something he didn’t in America.

A Dream Turned Nightmare

For Neni Jonga, the “American dream” was a prize she had always dreamed of. Beautiful home with a white picket fence, a perfect family, and her wish to become a pharmacist would be fulfilled. Her children would only know success and privilege, her husband would have a supportive job, and her worries would fade away. There was no reason for Neni to doubt this narrative; with TV constantly painting this image for Neni Jonga, it seemed anything but impossible. However, Neni’s dream soon faded to reality. A land that brought her joy for the future would soon jeopardize the union of her family as she knew it. What had once seemed so obtainable was now causing her so much sorrow. The combination of troubled asylum efforts, financial instability, and the doubts spewing left and right about her overly ambitious goals would all turn a beautiful dream into a dreadful nightmare.

 In so many stories, the idea of the American dream is a common theme and concept used. From an outsider’s perspective, it can be so easy to rely heavily on the media’s portrayal of American life. Neni expressed in the novel that she was accustomed to watching TV shows such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “Dallas”, or “ Dynasty” and giving in to these heavily fabricated series. It did not take long for Neni to suddenly be met with an outpour of hardships that would alter her sense of stability in America. Despite the shortcomings that Mrs. Jonga encountered, the idea of abandoning her dream was a grievous thought and eventual reality. The American Dream had a personified grip on Neni that could not be shaken. Even with efforts led by Jende and all odds turned against her, Neni turned a near-blind eye to the nightmare unfolding around her.

Not only did the American dream blind Neni, but it also transformed her character in considerable ways. At the beginning of Behold the Dreamers readers never would have thought that the loving mother could be capable of something as heinous as blackmail; however, Neni was desperate to live out a stable life in America. Neni even began to plot extreme schemes to savor this dream or provide her kids an American dream that she possibly would miss out on. Anything from marrying a random man to gain citizenship or giving her only son up for adoption, Neni was desperately seeking ways to stay in America rather than returning to Cameroon. 

Not to mention, Neni’s overly ambitious career path was solely centered on the ideas of the American dream. “In America, anyone can achieve anything.” This quote drove Neni towards initiating such a strenuous path. While it is true that America has an abundance of opportunities, it is also true that those opportunities are often readily available only to certain types of people. Neni was set in her ways and overlooked that harsh reality of the American dream.

The American dream is a construct that is heavily relied on and viewed by many as a saving grace, but what are we to do when our dreams fade to nightmares?

 

Who is this Chelsea Girl??

Clark would come see me after a long day at work. He would come in looking mentally and emotionally tired. After all, the drama and issues going on at Lehman Brothers is what made him appear to be this way. I began to know after he visited quite a few times at Chelsea Hotel whether he had had a good day or work or whether we rather should not speak about it and go on with what he was ultimately at my place for. He came once or twice a week for an “appointment”. I hadn’t known Clark Edwards much until we began to connect when spending some time together. I did know, however, that he had a family back in Upper East Side. He briefly mentioned his children Mighty and Vince the first time we met. He has brought up his wife quite a few times though. Her name is Cindy Edwards. He made assure in our first “appointment” not to tell anyone that he was at my place in Chelsea or what goes down inside the room. You could tell his worry of his wife Cindy finding out that he had been sneaking to the hotel. I don’t know where his wife thought he was. Maybe she thought he had a super long day at work, was sleeping over in his office, or was running errands…whatever it may be that was not my business. I was here as Clark’s emotional support and somewhere where he could find happiness. His family issues and work issues have only grown on him and placed him under far more stress than he had ever anticipated. On the other hand, Clark is a gentleman I adore. His pleasant smile the first time he walked through the door and into my room immediately caught my eye. His work attire only made it better. His collared shirt and ties that changed week to week. Such things I looked forward to each week and even better getting to spend quality time with Clark. We would first sit there and talk about whatever we could to keep a conversation going. After a few minutes of conversation, me and Clark’s connection turned into something much more. His body so close to me, always gave me a warming feeling. The sweet cologne of his I could smell as it had not been rubbed off one bit after a day at work. Me and Clark’s relationship almost seemed too good to be true. Never did I want him to leave my hotel room. I would always whisper in his ear as he departed “See you soon Clark, thanks for tonight.” A couple times Clark would be in a hurry to leave my place. He never stayed more than an hour- maybe because he didn’t want his wife to become too worried or suspicious of Clark’s unusual hours out? The days Clark was soon to leave, he would forget about his tie that he came in wearing. There were surely multiple times when Clark had walked out wearing less clothing than he had walking in. I would keep his tie that was left until the next time we met. I was Clark’s source of happiness and he made sure to prove that to me during our time together. Chelsea Hotel was his way of getting away from everything and not focusing on anything but me. Clark Edwards is very important to me and our times together in Chelsea will always be cherished.

Unnamed Women <3

What if…

What if the reason why the Jongas did not thrive in America was because there was a curse on them? 

Even though this idea sounds ungrounded and out of left field, it is actually supported by the text. In the beginning of chapter fifty-eight, Mbue inserts a seemingly unimportant line: “The Bakweri people of Limbe believe August is a cursed month…and it is for this reason that many in the tribe do not marry, build houses, or start businesses in August”. In its intended context, this line is used to show the overpowering nature of Jende’s desire for returning home; he is willing to risk the prosperity of his family and possibly waste their last chance at a new life. However, examining this quote in the full context of the book it takes on a whole new meaning. In theory, if Jende arrived in America during August he could carry this same curse with him in his new life. Mbue does not include the month that Jende arrives in America, so to prove this theory we have to do a little digging. We are told however that Neni arrives with Liomi eighteen months after Jende. Now we need to find the month when Neni and Liomi arrived in New York to use in counting backwards to find Jende’s arrival month. Although it is not directly stated, Mbue writes that Jende and Neni were married “two weeks after their arrival…on that day in May 2006”. So now we need to count back eighteen months from May 2006. Surprisingly, the math supports that Jende did arrive in New York in late August or early September 2005. Later, I found that this suspicion was also confirmed in chapter sixty-two: “They bade New York City goodbye…late August, around the same time he had arrived five years before”. With the confirmation that Jende arrived in New York during late August, it is safe to assume that they are affected by this curse. He gained the curse in the beginning of August 2005 in Limbe and carried it into New York. The irony of the situation is that “Jende Jonga, a Bakweri man, believed nothing in curses”. His same views on the supernatural that forced him to refuse help from the church, also stopped him from realising that he was cursed. If the Jongas went to America in a different month it is possible that they could have thrived in the new country. This curse stops the building of new houses and businesses, so it is reasonable to assume that this curse stopped Jende from finding a suitable living arrangement, and it could be responsible for Jende’s terrible luck with finding a stable job. Taking this idea further, it is possible that this curse could also be responsible for Jende’s fight with immigration. I love that this is a detail that Mbue put into “Behold the Dreamers” that is easily gone unnoticed; in my opinion, it is possible that she added this detail as a further nod to her culture.

Neni’s Character Development in Behold the Dreamers

Mbue does an excellent job at showing character development in Behold the Dreamers. Over the course of the novel almost every character seemed to change in some way. Clark Edwards started off as very cold and distant to his family, but ended up a loving, dedicated father towards the end of the book. Cindy ended up changing for the worse as she turned to drugs to help cope with her loneliness, leading to her ultimate death. In the beginning of the novel Jende was very hopeful and excited to be in America, but as the story went on he became very stressed out and defeated. Out of all of these characters though, I think Neni’s development was probably my favorite. In the beginning of the book she was very uncertain of herself, but over the course of the novel we saw her come out of her shell and fight for what she wanted.

I feel like one of the best examples of Neni’s uncertainty is seen in the bar scene in the beginning of the book. Winston was celebrating his birthday at a bar with a bunch of friends and he invited the Jongas. Neni was very nervous and she basically kept to herself the whole time because a lot of Winston’s friends were white. Mbue writes that “nothing shamed her more than black people embarrassing themselves in front of white people by behaving the way white people expected them to behave.” Neni also tended to go along with whatever Jende wanted in the beginning of the book. There were a few times that she disagreed with Jende, but she felt that it was her job as his wife to go along with what he wanted. For example, when Liomi overhears her talking to one of her friends about them possibly having to return to Limbe, Jende is furious. Even though Neni doesn’t think that it’s wrong for her to talk about these things, she apologizes and assures Jende that it won’t happen again.

As the novel continues though, we start to see Neni become more confident and she begins to stand up for herself more. Her desire to stay in America causes her to become a much more assertive person and we see that she is willing to do whatever it takes to avoid returning to Limbe. For example, after Clark fires Jende, she goes to Cindy’s house and blackmails her with a picture of her doing drugs. She ends up getting $10,000 from Cindy. This is definitely something that she wouldn’t have done in the beginning of the novel and it shows just how much America has toughened her. She is beginning to go to desperate measures to get the things that she wants. She even starts to stand up to Jende a lot more towards the end of the book. The best example of this is probably seen the night where Jende hits her. Jende has decided for his whole family that they are going to return to Limbe, despite Neni’s wishes to keep fighting to stay in America. Neni suggests divorcing so that she can marry her friend’s cousin and gain citizenship. Jende tells her to stop talking, but she continues explaining her idea until Jende ends up hitting her. Even though I don’t necessarily agree with Neni’s idea, I definitely respect that Neni was able to stand up for herself and advocate for what she wanted, something that definitely wasn’t the case when the book started.

Am I Worth It?

I have this gut feeling that has been bothering me for a long time. I cannot get rid of it with the pills or the alcohol. The parties do not help me either. The only thing I can do to relieve my conscience, is asking Jende to write down everything and every place that Clark does or goes. This should be an easy assignment for him because he is Clark’s chauffeur. I can feel it. I know Clark is doing something bad. There is no way that Clark spends his entire day working. Jende knows something.

After having the perfect life under the eyes of the public, he goes and does the lowest thing any man can do. How could he? Clark has made us something we are not. Our family is a lie. From the beginning. We attend parties and get-togethers, so Clark can appear to have the best life compared to his friends. He is successful and has the perfect trophy wife under his associates’ eyes. Am I nothing more?

I knew it. He is cheating.

I question my value in society. I’ve shaped and bent my morals to enter the standards of fitting of society. I am a trophy wife to Clark Edwards and nothing more. It has been a struggle to build an entirely different life for my family compared to the one I had as a child. Does he know that I’ve been the product of rape? Does he know my mother hated the idea of raising me and yet still did it? The pain of being raised and not loved, yet he chooses to be a low scum bag. Cheating on me. Why would he open the wound of being the last resort for anyone? However, I’m fine. All the money, the jewelry, the parties, and a smile on my face, covers up the empty feeling in my life. Maybe it’s true. Rich people aren’t satisfied with their wealth. Look at them. Jende and Neni are in worse conditions than I am but still manages to have a happy and stable marriage. Where did I go wrong? I fought for my family. All the events I attended for Clark. To be shown around. I lost myself to pursue more material items which reduced my well-being. But do they see it? No. It is all about what’s on the surface rather what is inside. Not even my husband is there for me. He goes out on these “business meeting”, as if I do not know what’s really going on. Am I not good enough? What’s wrong with me? What do I not have that these damn prostitutes have? How can I please you at the events for our family’s reputation but behind the walls, I cannot even please you? Throwing away our marriage to be with a slut while I am suffering with OUR son’s actions. Leaving his studies to go to India. And HE doesn’t care. But I’m okay. Just smile. I’m always alone. I don’t have any motivation to keep going. The pills I take, the alcohol I drink is because of him. Cheating, the constant validation needed, the childhood I had is all bringing me down. It is slowly getting dark and the light at the end of the tunnel starts to grow farther away.

Limbe vs. New York

Looking back at the Jonga’s journey through the progression of the novel, it is clear that both Jende and Neni share a love for both Limbe and New York City. At the end of the novel, the Jongas sadly have to leave the life that they have established in New York City as they can no longer legally stay in the country. Jende did not win his Asylum court case and his Visa had expired. With that being said, the Jongas were bringing back with them twenty one thousand dollars to Limbe that they had earned while working (and blackmailing) during their time in New York City. Brining this much American money back to a poor country like Cameroon is a big advantage for them and their loved ones. Equating twenty one thousand dollars to Cameroon’s currency (CFA Francs) is eleven million, six hundred and ninety seven thousand, five hundred and fifty two  CFA Francs. That is a crazy amount of money for a family who feels defeated as they could not make it in the big apple. The main argument for the New York versus Limbe argument is freedom versus equity. In America, if they could have stayed, they would have struggled in poverty trying to make a better life, but they also would have had more protections under American law than they do under Cameroonian law. On the other hand, in Limbe, they would be rich and would be able to have a nice house and maids and would be able to provide Liomi and his younger sibling with an above average life gibing them whatever they wanted. In many countries living in poverty, any law can be overridden with the right amount of money and the Jongas sure had enough of it. The decision of which one is better to live it lies within the person. The opinion of which situation is better can only be decided by how the individual wants to live and spend their life. I think that the Jongas would have differing opinions on this matter. The New York life suits Neni and we can see that in the novel as she is so resistant to leave New York. The equal rights and opportunities seems advantageous to her character while in Limbe she would not be treated as an equal. Jende however, is a very humble individual and is perfectly okay with the simple life in Limbe. He knows deep down inside of himself that he would much rather live in Limbe wit his own business than to constantly be seen as expendable by the rich white men of New York. This dynamic of difference is what makes the Jongas relationship in Behold the Dreamers so compelling. Those two always butting heads makes for a good story as they both think they are doing the right thing, they are just doing it in different way. I personally could not tell you my opinion on which I think is better but I know that if they had a choice to stay in New York or go back to Limbe, that would be one difficult talk for the both of them.

What if Liomi was a young adult?

 

If Liomi was a young adult when the Jongas moved to New York, I feel that this would be a very different novel. Liomi is sidelined for a majority of the story, just a piece in the puzzle playing the role of the child the Jongas care for and want to provide a future for. We hardly see any of his actions causing major changes in the story, or get insight into what he thinks. After all he is only  a child and cannot grasp most of the events happening in this novel. As a young adult he would be old enough to understand the implications and weight of what they have done by moving to America. He would remember his life in Cameroon more vividly, and be able to grasp the differences between the two countries. I would hope to see a few chapters in his perspective and see that he does not think America is so golden. He could become more of a burden in taking college, costing more money, or he could help the family by staying home and taking care of the baby or getting another job. I could see him running off with Vince or causing drama by only Liomi being able to get a green card and his parents having to be sent back. Would he fight to stay in America, or return to Cameroon? Would the Jongas even have to leave? If faced with this challenge we would see which Liomi values more, his family or America. I feel like Liomi would not trust Bubakar and they would find a better lawyer. How would he feel about Clark and Cindy? I feel like he would be more judgemental about them for some reason. He would think highly of them but over time see the corruption and follow Vince. He will have strong family values so the likelihood of him running away with Vince to India is low. But would staying in America be more important to him than staying with his family? If he provided another source of income would that have impacted Jende’s choice to leave? Plus he would feel indebted to his parents for bringing him to this country, this land of opportunity. What if he found out about Clark’s cheating. If that would cause a rift between him and Jende or if he would side with him. How he would react to Jende when he saw him beating his mother. How would Liomi being older and more mature affect his role in the story. Would he try to fight back against his father, or would he think what he did was okay given Cameroonian culture? I would like to see him being a mirror of Vince, and finding out the truth about America before his parents and having some big build up. It would be interesting to have another point of view, especially one from a younger person and with a black sheep mindset to the main character’s point of view.

Unfolding the Depths of Cindy Edwards

Behold the dreamers, a book full of many different stories of many different people that all end up overlapping. A book that leads its audience through heartache countless times. One character who was at the root of all the pain was Cindy Edwards. She was cold, manipulative, guarded, and just overall isolated from most people in her life including her husband and children. Cindy grew up with a rough background to be fair though. Her mother resented her because she was a product of rape, she was raised around addiction and abuse, and overall just had no support system whatsoever. When Clark came into her life (Clark is her husband) she clung to him and the attention he initially fed her. She finally felt as though she was wanted or that she belonged somewhere. They had two kids, Vince and Mighty. As the years of their marriage went on, Clark grew more distant from her. This is most likely what lead to her drug and alcohol abuse that ultimately caused her life to be cut short. From early on in reading Behold the Dreamers, I judged Cindy Edwards and I’m not ashamed to admit it. She seemed to live a privileged and pampered life, yet for some reason, she treated others so poorly. This was judgement was made prior to learning about her history, but even after I found all that out I still was not her biggest fan. I guess part of this was because she reminds me a bit of myself. Disconnected and indifferent towards certain aspects of the world. She blames herself for her personal heartaches and those of her family and just wishes she could do something to fix it all. As if it will make them accept her. Cindy was just looking for support in the arms of people who only cared about what was on the outside. So she turned to addiction to find the comfort she wanted so badly. She felt alone and powerless which is probably why she treated others so poorly. As a way to show that she still held some sort of authority in her life. I do think that I misjudged her character looking back now. We all have our own battles to face in this world, and though people like Jende and Neni’s are far more obvious to others, it does not belittle the severity of the ones like what Cindy had to go through. Internal conflict is some of the hardest stuff a person can face because they are normally forced to face it alone. Usually, because they feel they lack a person to confide in or they are too ashamed to discuss it aloud. I’ve been there more times than I can count, so I should have probably been more sympathetic towards Mrs. Edwards. This took a sadder turn than I expected it to, but I just realized how much I can relate to Cindy minus a few aspects of her character.

The Test of Life

The Test of Life

Life is nothing more than a test made to determine your failure. Each question mercilessly written to strip you of confidence. A trial designed to make you feel if you ever even stood a chance. The bad grade awaiting at your completion, slithering into your head, and drowning you in self-doubt. Your own mind mocking you, ridiculing you.

Life is not made for people. It will never be for people. It will always be the antagonist in every situation. Life is a character that teases you, making you truly think anything, and everything is possible. However, at the end of the day, we are nothing more than extras in a movie, made to be ignored, skimmed over. We have no vital role; we don’t even have any lines. We are not important to life; life will always go on without us. It does not wait for us to catch up and it certainly does not care if we do.

The American Dream is one of the many questions that we are given. Sadly, it is also a question that does not have a right answer. That is why everyone fails to achieve it, to accomplish it. We think the American Dream is achievable, but it never was and never will be. It is a fake reality, nothing more than a childhood fantasy.

In Behold the Dreamers, Mbue outlines the American Dream with the Jendes and Edwards. The Jendes are a family chasing after the American Dream and the Edwards are a family who has seemingly attained it. However, Mbue showcases that the American Dream is nothing more than a villain. It’s a villain of many different faces. It’s a perfect family, wealth, popularity, freedom. However, the cost of one is failed marriages, destruction of families, broken dreams, and death. It takes without remorse. Turning your goals into stars in the night sky; lightyears away and impossible to reach. The American Dream was not created to give people hope, it’s meant to wash you of it. It’s a tool to control each one of us, to always keep us wishing and expecting.

It led Neni to believe that becoming a pharmacist was ideal, possible even after everything going against her. It led Cindy to believe that despite her husband’s affairs and the abandonment she faced from her children, she would have a happy, picture-perfect family. Behold the Dreamers showcases how the American Dream always fails us. Neni, who thought all was achievable in the fashionable New York City, was left with nothing more than a failed dream and tested marriage. Cindy ended up destroying the very thing she wanted and ultimately overdosed on drugs. Not to mention, Jende who decided to move back to Cameroon after a run in with the common enemy, immigration. The book highlights how people come to America wanting to start a new life for themselves, for their family, for wealth, etc. For a while, it seems possible. You get a job, you start school, you make friends, but something always happens. Some recover and some don’t. Some can change their predetermined fate, and some will succumb to it. Mbue shows how a family with everything going for them and a family with nothing both suffer to the American Dream, the false reality created by Life.

Life is nothing more than a test that everyone goes into unprepared. You have pencils but each one is broken. You have scribbles on your arm and yet they do nothing to help. Everything you thought was important isn’t even mentioned and every fiber of you that thought by some miracle you would pass, lied. You will never pass, and you were never meant to. The American Dream was somehow believing that you could.