“Behold the Dreamers” is a first novel about immigration and the American Dream. The novel tells the story of two families, the Jongas and the Edwards.
In 2004, Jende Jonga arrived in America under slightly false pretenses, obtaining a temporary visa with the understanding that he intended to return to his home country of Cameroon in three months. He had no such intentions, but desired to stay in America forever, escaping his impoverished life in Limbe Cameroon, and attaining the American dream. Jende’s girlfriend, Neni, and their six year old son, made their way to America two years later. Neni’s father would not allow them to marry because Jende was from a poor family. Within a week of Neni’s arrival in New York, Jende and Neni are married. When the reader meets Neni and Jende, the couple is living in an apartment in Harlem and struggling to make ends meet. Neni is working as a home health aid and going to school at night and Jende is working a variety of jobs, including as a livery driver.
Jende’s cousin, Winston, a successful Wall Street lawyer, arranges for Jende to interview to become a chauffeur to a wealthy investment banker at Lehman Brothers (remember them?). Jende succeeds in getting the job, earning a whopping $35,000 a year, and we meet the Edwards family. Clark and Cindy Edwards appear to be the perfect couple, wealthy, beautiful and living the American dream. They have two children, 10 year old Mighty and Columbia Law student, Vince. The couple has a spectacular Manhattan apartment and an even more spectacular summer home in the Hamptons.
Jende drives Mr. Edwards to and from work and appointments, including certain regular appointments of a tawdry nature at the Chelsea Hotel. All the while Lehman Brothers is imploding and Clark is doing all he can to hold it together. Cindy is living the life of the bored wealthy socialite, but all is not well. Vince wants to quit law school and move to India and Cindy has her own misgivings about the life she leads. Neni becomes well acquainted with Cindy when she goes to work for her during the summer in the Hamptons. Their relationship is full of surprises.
In the meantime, Jende has hired an immigration lawyer to help him obtain citizenship, but the process is not going as he desires and haunts him every day. His family back in Cameroon is aging and has financial needs. Lehman Brothers implodes, the Edwards family is splitting apart and Jende loses his lucrative job. He and Neni, who has given birth to a second child, struggle through the days. “…bad news has a way of slithering into good days and making a mockery of complacent joys.”
After months of poverty, stress and disillusionment, Jende and Neni must decide whether to fight to stay in America or go back to Cameroon. The decision is gut wrenching. But in order for you to know how it all turns out, you need to read this subtly provocative first novel. You can reserve “Behold the Dreamers” at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking on http://encore.cuyahoga.lib.oh.us/iii/encore/record/C__Rb11195333__Sbehold%20the%20dreamers__P0%2C2__Orightresult__X7?lang=eng&suite=gold. If you prefer an electronic version, click on http://encore.cuyahoga.lib.oh.us/iii/encore/record/C__Rb11221951__Sbehold%20the%20dreamers__P0%2C1__Orightresult__X7?lang=eng&suite=gold