Meeting Imbolo Mbue, Author of Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

 M D Zigo, April 2019

Few people become famous and even rich, overnight. I believe Imbolo Mbue is one of them. She is someone you would want to meet in your lifetime. Until her critically acclaimed debut novel was published, the world had very little knowledge of her. I did not know her until early 2017 - never heard of her or came across any of her previous writings (which I later found out), were few.  Did she emerge from the blues?

I first knew about the author of Behold the Dreamers through a post a friend shared on Facebook. Later on, I stumbled upon her piece in The Guardian titled ''With Every Inch, the Challenge Multiplies: Me and My Afro,'' and I didn't think it my kind of article. However, being so inquisitive, I read on. The feature summarised thus:

 ''It's been short, long, straight and punky- reflecting the twists and turns of my homeland, Cameroon.''

She wrote:

 ''Last summer while detangling (a process that takes at least an hour and requires a lot of patience), I received a phone call from a friend. There was an uprising in Cameroon, she said. Hundreds of our fellow anglophone Cameroonians were rioting and protesting. The government had unleashed its soldiers. Some protesters had been arrested. A few might be dead. Our Struggle, ''the anglophone problem'' was back on the spotlight. I sighed, too disturbed to respond. Hadn't we had enough?''

Highly informative and beautifully written, the piece was really not only about her hair, but also about the gripping subject of decolonisation in Africa and the relationship about the two communities in a bilingual country.  I was impressed - even marvelled at the way Mbue fused two interesting topics into one. Fusing them in such a way as to keep interest in both required skills and I respected her for that. I decided I needed to know more about her and her writing.  When I checked on her, I immediately realised I took the right decision to research her.

Born in 1982, in Limbe, Cameroon, she moved to the US in 1998, at age 17,  after a brilliant education in Cameroon. She obtained her B.S from Rutgers and an MA from Columbia University. She got her American citizenship in 2014. She became the talk of the town when she got a million-dollar advance for her first story in 2014. According to reliable sources, she never wanted to become a writer. Truth is, she became one - not just any ordinary author, but one who became a household name - not only in New York - not only in the US, where she resides but across the world and greatly loved by her fans. By the time I enquired about her, Mbue was receiving a lot of buzz and trending on social media. I did not delay ordering a copy of her book. When the book finally arrived a few days after purchase, I found out the reason for her growing popularity. 

 In her acclaimed book, Imbolo Mbue tells the story of two New York city families during the 2008 financial crisis: an immigrant family from Cameroon and their wealthy employers. The piece of work, according to the New York Times, is 'a dissection of the American dream...savage and compassionate in all the right places.'   Sonia Nazario, a pulitzer prize winning author summarises it as ' a beautiful novel about one African couple starting a new life in a new land, Behold the Dreamers will teach you about the promise and pitfalls of life in the United States, as about the immigrant who come here in search of the so called American Dream.'  I agree with Ayelet Waldman that 'It's rare that a book is so fascinating, so emotionally compelling and so beautiful that I can't put it down...'

I had become Imbolo Mbue's best fan - perhaps in my part of the world, so much so that I told everybody I encountered, willing to listen, about Imbolo Mbue's writing. When an opportunity came to meet her in person a few months after, I did not hesitate to seize it. This was at the Louisiana International Literature Festival in Denmark, August of 2017. The event takes place every year, at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, located some 25 miles North of Copenhagen, with a panoramic view of Sweden across the ocean. That's where I saw Imbolo Mbue. She was on a book tour - one of the few authors selected around the world, to participate. We met on a sunny August Saturday, after she completed a discussion/book signing event, along the coastline - a gentle summer breeze blowing from the ocean, reminiscent of her native Limbe on the Atlantic Coast of Cameroon.

I was an unexpected guest and she told me so. She had not expected to see any Cameroonian, talk less of one from the English-speaking part of Cameroon as she’d not met anyone from homeland, since arriving in Denmark. Wearing a beautiful purple dress and a unique hair-style, she reminded me of her article on ' and my afro.' Our meeting lasted for only 20 minutes but created a lasting impression. We chatted about Cameroon and the Cameroonian community in Denmark. We took many pictures and I made a video of her signing my copy of her well-crafted masterpiece.

She scripted a positive message on my copy:

 Dear Zigo,

 Such a pleasure meeting you in Copenhagen -thank you so much for your kindness and support! I hope you'll keep writing and someday, I'll get to read your work.

                                                                                 Always, Imbolo

 She added

 Cameroon oh Yay!

Here's to us representing and being the best we can be!

Our meeting was brief and meaningful. She would have loved to attend a gathering of Cameroonians from the South West Region of Cameroon, scheduled later that evening or eat a 'fufu' and 'eru' meal my wife prepared, but time did not permit. I returned home that Saturday evening pleased with myself- knowing what a privilege it was meeting such a young and successful writer.  

Imbolo Mbue and I were worlds apart: she was already a successful writer- acclaimed and renowned around the world- what I dreamed to become many years ago. I was please I'd met her and drawn inspiration. 'I hope you'll keep writing and someday, I'll get to read your work,’ she’d written.  We were worlds apart but also similar in so many ways; agemates, parents with two kids at the time, family types, from the same country and  region, had learned using the same educational syllables until college, suffered the same prejudices and affected by the same system of government,  lived in the same city and had all moved abroad, although to different countries.  I look up to her for inspiration and motivation.

Today, I am pleased to hear that Imbolo Mbue’s work continues to do well. The book is a New York Times Bestseller, won multiple awards and chosen the best book of the year by many publications. Her book is a favourite of Oprah’s.  Behold the Dreamers has been translated into many languages and recently optioned for a movie. Imbolo Mbue continues to make herself useful as she continues to inspire and motivate others through her keynote speeches.

It was a privilege meeting Mbue. I look forward to reading her next big masterpiece.

Comments on Meeting Imbolo Mbue, Author of Behold the Dreamers

Have you read the book Behold the Dreamers? I have created a comments section below so you can submit your comments. Tell us what you thing about the article, about Imbolo Mbue and her novel, Behold the Dreamers.

Click on this link to leave Meeting Imbolo Mbue, Author of Behold the Dreamers to our Home Page or back to Book Reviews.

Have A Great Story About This Topic?

Do you have a great story about this? Share it!

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]


Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

  •  submission guidelines.

(You can preview and edit on the next page)

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers 
I have not yet read Imbolo Mbue's Behold the Dreamers. Maybe some day soon! Well life has it's lerks but I think this is the Perk of the perks. You did …

Click here to write your own.

Behold the Dreamers

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Join Our Mailing List/ Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Quick Links to Short Stories

Chatting to the Grave

The Soldier