Two weeks ago, I finally got myself a copy of the book Behold the Dreamers by the Cameroonian Imbolo Mbue.

I was so excited about it as I have been interested in African-American literature since Chimamanda Ngozie’s Americanah. I find myself relating more to African writers and philanthropists although I also very much love Wall Street novels or French literature.

In my most recent reads, in addition to this book, I read an article from Edgar Grande with title – European Identity: A Dangerous Obsession. I also read another article from Granovetta (1973) (quite old but only found it recently) about the Strength of Weak Ties. I will definitely recommend it those interested in the debate around current EU political crisis and analysis of social networks respectively (Find the links attached below).

Strength of Weak Ties by Granovetta

European Identity: a dangerous obsession by Edgar Grande

Coming back to Behold the Dreamers!

I literally lack words. This was mind-blowing and before I start, I need to congratulate her on this book. This is the first time I read such from a Cameroonian writer. I’m so proud of it.

Let’s have a little recap on the story line.

The book is about a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, Jende Jonga, who has come to the United States in search of a better life for himself, his wife, Neni and their six-year old son. Around fall of 2007, he luckily and unbelievably gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark makes high demands of his chauffeur including punctuality, discretion and loyalty. Clark’s wife, Cindy, later on offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. These opportunities make Jende and Neni gain a foothold in America and have hopes of a brighter future.

However, things do not go as they had wished. Jende and Neni soon discover cracks in their employers’ facades. Things worsen with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers alongside the financial crisis and Jende looses his job. The Jongas marriage threatens to fall apart and they are forced to make an impossible choice.

The novel perhaps highlights the naivety of the immigrant’s dreams given the harsh reality of the world. The author touches on the issues of race, culture, violence, pain, and the impact of male decision-making on women. The writing is beautiful and quite authentic picture of an immigrant experience. The characters of Jende and Neni are complex and captured my interest easily. I loved the portrayal of their home country Cameroon and their connections with it. I could relate with the slang and songs and areas mentioned in the book.

For the most part, the book was quite understandable. I loved the way I could depict the financial crisis through a non-academic angle. It really shows what is known in simple terms as ‘the gap between the rich and the poor’. At one end of the spectrum, we have the Jongas, Cameroonian immigrants desperately in search of a green card and on the other end, the Edwards family, wealthy upper-class New Yorker.

The story once more brought to my attention the fragility of the American Dream which saddened me a little.

Sometimes I wanted a bit more from it – perhaps a continuation.
For my readers,
19’s Observation.




Today marks the first time in a long time, a very long time that i get back to reading.  September 7th, and finished reading a book.

I just completed ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda A. Ngozie.

 Completing it almost seemed impossible for me.

I remember the last time i read (i mean reading a proper book; novel, poetry, literature, fiction hand book not an electronic copy as we mostly see now) was back in my highschool days. And now i am back to ‘the books’. Usually i will read for at most two days and complete but this time, it took me two weeks. Exactly two weeks.

I nearly gave up but because it was an objective which i had made a priority, i told myself  “there’s no way you are not finishing this book”. It feels like a self accomplishment; I have proven to myself capable of reading again.

I would not say what took me so long to finish was that the book was boring or that the literature involved was quite complex, rather, it was my level of vocabulary that sucked. I just was not used to the words probably because i did not read that much anymore and was contented by the homogeneity of my vocabulary in University essays. I took longer because I heckled up the meaning of difficult words in a dictionary. It personally surprised me to see how degraded my level was. Me who thought i knew enough, me who thought reading was meant for those with English problems, me who thought my grammar or vocabulary needed no touch as i had studied in English all my life.  And there i was unable to define words, reading slowly because i took more time in making sense out of sentences. May be it was all laziness. Or perhaps i was just a partisan of minimal efforts.

It is so shocking how many people fall in this array. Thinking that they already know and don’t need to know more. Well, I thought as most of them and i was wrong. I need to constantly enhance my vocabulary. Reading is a big key to that. Now that i am through with this first book, i can’t wait to start that other ones. Very funny, i have books, i have always had them, in my drawers and shelves. I loved going to bookshops and buy them but when it came to  reading, i never really opened them. Its only now i realise i was making a fool of myself, pretending all this while to be a big intellectual by accumulating books meanwhile they had never been opened. its never too late to start reading again my lovely…

If you are wondering why you should border yourself reading, while you’ve studied or spoken that language all your life, then this post is for you. Nowadays, everything (almost) have electronic copies. You can read a book from your screen, browse over the internet and even download it. Basically what i mean is that you no longer have to buy a hard copy of a book and hold it in your hands to say you are reading. The main reason i will say should motivate you (me) to effectively read  is that reading gives a competitive advantage to succeed where others cannot and this applies to all endeavours. From the book i read, i already feel different. Completely stimulated intellectually (in vocabulary, style) and even vision. ‘You can’t read and remain unchanged’ is what i will say to anyone that begins to read. In reading, you get valuable lessons.

Take reading as though you were putting time to get a knowledge advantage.  Despite this years not reading, i have always had an affinity for it because i love it and i understand that it is an accreditation to success. This journey, should i say new beginning as a reader, regardless of my endeavours, upbringing, current situation or even the path i have decided or wish to take in life, reading is key to upward mobility.

As Malcom X  said as cited by Gary W. (2014) in his study of successful people, ‘Reading may not guarantee success, but it surely increases the chances of it’ which i totally agree to and believe is true. Fortunately, the amount of time we spend reading is entirely up to us and within our control, yet, i choose to seize every bit of it.

19’s Observation.