Imbolo Mbue‘s debut novel Behold the Dreamers has as long a list of winning editorial blurbs as any book could hope for. And above all this effusive praise from the likes of USA Today and the New York Times are these words from Oprah Winfrey, who made Mbue’s novel a selection for her nonpareil book club: “I love this book because it talks EVERYTHING. Race, class, family love, pursuit of happiness.” Oprah magazine chimes in with a powerful assessment, too, alluding to the great theme of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes: “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.”
Another 1920s figure who might come to mind reading Behold the Dreamers is F. Scott Fitzgerald, for both his great Gatsby and Mbue’s Edwards family occupy equally gilded American milieus with dark undersides. Just as Fitzgerald, hailing from Minnesota, was something of an outsider to Eastern aristocracy, so too (and much more so, perhaps) is the Cameroon native Mbue, who with an MA from Columbia University has Ivy League credentials like Fitzgerald’s from his time at Princeton (though he famously never graduated). Mbue’s novel is said to be about the immigrant experience, and it is a version of that of course. But is also, like Gatsby, about money and cultural entrenchment — and the joys and difficulties of love. Reports said Oprah reread Gatsby just before changing her book club to classics in a previous iteration. In Behold the Dreamers she can have a classic and a contemporary novel all at once.
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) June 26, 2017