This morning, Oprah Winfrey announced her latest selection for “Oprah’s Book Club” ― and it’s as topical as it is gripping. Behold the Dreamers is a powerful novel by 36-year-old Imbolo Mbue, whose own experience as an immigrant from Cameroon is woven through a tale of Jende and Neni Jonga, a couple from Central Africa who come to America believing it will grant all their wishes.
“It’s got everything that’s grabbing the headlines in America right now,” Oprah says of the book. “It’s about race and class, the economy, culture, immigration and the danger of the us-versus-them mentality.”
However, as with most things in life, Jende and Neni come to realize that pursuing the American Dream is not that simple.
“It’s so hard to be a stranger in a strange land,” Mbue says in an interview in the August issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. “I don’t think most people understand how difficult it is to leave behind what you know and come to a country where everything about you is considered ‘different.’ I wanted readers to appreciate that part of Jende and Neni’s struggle is to adapt without forgetting who they are.”
In Behold the Dreamers, Jende becomes a chauffeur for a man who works for Lehman Brothers right around the time of the financial crisis. By the novel’s bittersweet end, the characters are transformed ― in good and “not-so-good” ways, says Oprah ― by the pursuit of their dreams.
“Underneath it all, pops the heart and soul of family, love, the pursuit of happiness and what ‘home’ really means,” Oprah says. “It’s the perfect read for your summer vacation.”
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