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If you’re looking for an audiobook that explores the complexities of the American Dream, “Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue is an excellent choice. Mbue’s debut novel follows the story of two families from vastly different backgrounds, united by their pursuit of a better life in New York City.

In this audiobook review, we’ll dive deep into Mbue’s writing style, the narration of the audiobook, and its overall reception among readers. We’ll also examine the book’s social, cultural, and historical contexts and explore its impact in the literary community.

Key Takeaways:

  • “Behold the Dreamers” is a compelling audiobook that explores themes of immigration, ambition, and identity.
  • Imbolo Mbue’s writing style is accessible and emotionally resonant, making the story’s complex themes relatable to listeners.
  • Narrator Prentice Onayemi’s performance is a highlight of the audiobook, bringing the characters to life with nuance and depth.
  • The book’s exploration of the American Dream and the complexities of the immigrant experience is relevant and thought-provoking.
  • Overall, “Behold the Dreamers” is a must-listen for anyone interested in contemporary literature, social themes, and the immigrant experience.

About the Author, Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue is a talented Cameroonian writer who has made a significant contribution to modern literature. Born and raised in Limbe, Cameroon, she later moved to the United States to pursue higher education. She has a Masters of Business Administration degree from Rutgers University and currently lives in New York City.

Mbue’s debut novel, “Behold the Dreamers,” received critical acclaim upon its publication in 2016. Her unique insight into the human condition and her evocative writing style have established her as a notable figure in contemporary literature. Her work explores themes such as class, identity, race, and the immigrant experience.

Notable Achievements and Awards Date
Behold the Dreamers 2017
Behold the Dreamers 2017
USA Artists Fellowship 2018

Mbue’s writing has won her several notable awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2017 and the USA Artists Fellowship in 2018.

Her work continues to inspire and resonate with readers worldwide, cementing her place as one of the most compelling voices in contemporary literature.

Plot Summary of “Behold the Dreamers”

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is a powerful novel that traces the lives of two families in New York City during the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis. The story follows the Jonga family, consisting of Jende, his wife, Neni, and their son, as they struggle to make a living in the city as immigrants from Cameroon.

Jende lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a Lehman Brothers executive, and this job brings hope to the Jonga family. At the same time, Neni is studying to become a pharmacist, and the two parents work tirelessly to provide for their family.

However, as the financial crisis hits and Lehman Brothers faces bankruptcy, Jende finds himself in a precarious situation. Tensions rise between Jende and Neni, and as the family becomes more desperate, they face difficult challenges and decisions. At the same time, the Edwards family, who seem to represent the American Dream, also face their own struggles.

Overall, Behold the Dreamers is a poignant tale of ambition, identity, and sacrifice, about the lengths to which we will go to achieve our dreams and the unpredictable nature of the American Dream itself.

Setting of “Behold the Dreamers”

“Behold the Dreamers” is set in New York City during the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. The book follows the Jonga family, immigrants from Cameroon, and their relationship with the wealthy Edwards family.

The geographical location of New York City is an important aspect of the story, as it serves as a symbol of the American Dream and the opportunities that draw the Jonga family to the United States. The contrast between the neighborhoods of the Jongas and the Edwards’ Upper East Side apartment highlights the wealth inequality present in society.

The time period of the book is also significant, as it explores the impact of the financial crisis on both families and their livelihoods. It allows for an exploration of immigration and the American Dream in a particularly tumultuous time in history.

Setting Details in “Behold the Dreamers”
Setting Aspect Details
Geographical Location New York City
Time Period Lead-up to the 2008 Financial Crisis
Historical Context Impact of the Financial Crisis on Immigrants and the American Dream

Themes and Motifs in “Behold the Dreamers”

“Behold the Dreamers” explores several important themes and motifs throughout its narrative, providing readers with a thought-provoking and nuanced experience. One of the key themes in the book is ambition, as it centers around the lives of two ambitious immigrants, Jende and Neni, who relocate to the United States from Cameroon with the hopes of achieving the American Dream. The book also delves into the theme of identity, as Jende and Neni struggle to balance their Cameroonian roots with their newfound identities as Americans.

Another significant theme explored in “Behold the Dreamers” is immigration. The book offers a realistic portrayal of the hardships faced by immigrants, as Jende and Neni navigate the complicated legal system and work tirelessly to secure their places in American society. Additionally, “Behold the Dreamers” deals with the theme of social class, as the relationships between the wealthy Edwards family and the struggling Jongas reveal the significant disparities between various socioeconomic groups in America.

The presence of various motifs further enriches the reading experience of “Behold the Dreamers.” For instance, the use of cars throughout the book symbolizes both belonging and isolation, as it signifies the characters’ travels and their desire to be a part of American culture. The motif of dreams, too, is prominent throughout the book, highlighting the aspirations of the characters and their pursuit of a better life.

Behold the Dreamers Themes and Motifs




Social Class



Character Analysis in “Behold the Dreamers”

“Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue boasts a vibrant cast of characters whose carefully crafted arcs provide an engrossing reading experience. Jende, the main protagonist, is an ambitious and hardworking immigrant struggling to provide for his family. His wife Neni embodies the determination to succeed against all odds. Clark Edwards, Jende’s wealthy employer, serves as a symbol of the American Dream and ambition taken too far.

Apart from the main characters, the supporting cast plays significant roles in shaping the narrative. From Cindy Edwards, Clark’s wife, to Esther, Neni’s friend, each character brings unique motivations, conflicts, and relationships to the story. Mbue skillfully intertwines their individual stories to create a rich and complex tapestry that interrogates themes of identity, class, and the immigrant experience.

Mbue imbues the characters with nuances, creating an emotive connection between the reader and the story. The portrayal of each character’s internal and external struggles is intricate and authentic, allowing readers to understand their motivations, actions, and perspectives. Through character analysis, “Behold the Dreamers” showcases the complexities of the immigrant experience, the American Dream, and the global economic dynamics that impact everyday lives.

Writing Style and Narration in the Audiobook

The audiobook version of “Behold the Dreamers” delivers the author Imbolo Mbue’s writing style and narration effectively. Mbue’s prose is descriptive, immersive, and evocative, with vivid imagery and masterful pacing that captures the essence of the characters and their struggles.

Her storytelling techniques translate well into the audio format, aided by the outstanding narration of Prentice Onayemi, who infuses life into each character with nuanced voice acting that draws listeners into the story.

The use of shifting perspectives and timelines is also skillfully executed, helping the listener better understand the characters and their motivations.

All in all, the audiobook version of “Behold the Dreamers” is a captivating listening experience, bringing to life the richly drawn characters and their complex struggles in a masterful performance that is a testament to the excellence of both the writing style and narration.

Audiobook Performance and Production Quality

One of the key elements that contribute to the success of an audiobook is its performance and production quality. In the case of “Behold the Dreamers,” the audiobook excels in both areas, offering an engaging and immersive listening experience for its audience.

The narration, handled by Prentice Onayemi, is a standout feature of the audiobook. Onayemi’s voice acting captures the nuances of each character, bringing them to life in a vivid and convincing way. The pacing is well-calibrated, maintaining a steady momentum throughout the story while allowing for the moments of introspection and reflection to land with impact.

Another aspect that sets the audiobook apart is its production quality. The sound quality is crisp and clear, with no noticeable background noise or distortion. The audio mix is also well balanced, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the story without any audio distractions.

Overall, the audiobook production quality and performance successfully enhance the storytelling experience of “Behold the Dreamers.” Listeners will undoubtedly appreciate the attention to detail and high-quality production values that contributed to this inspiring and thought-provoking story.

Audience Reception and Reviews

Since its release, “Behold the Dreamers” has garnered significant attention from both readers and audiobook listeners alike. The audiobook has received mixed reviews, with some praising the narration and production quality while others criticized it for feeling impersonal and lacking emotional depth.

Many listeners appreciated the audiobook’s exploration of relevant social and political issues, such as immigration, race, and class. However, some felt that the narration failed to do justice to the nuanced themes and characters present in the book.

Overall, the audiobook has received a 3.8-star rating on Audible, with positive reviews commending Imbolo Mbue’s writing and storytelling abilities. Likewise, reviews on Goodreads are mixed, with some users praising the audiobook for its thought-provoking narrative and representation of the immigrant experience.

“Behold the Dreamers” offers a compelling portrayal of immigrant life in America, and despite some criticisms of the audiobook format, Mbue’s writing shines through, making it a worthwhile listen for those interested in diverse stories and themes.

Comparison to Other Works by Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue has written other notable works besides “Behold the Dreamers.” Comparing these works can offer interesting insights into the author’s writing style and themes.

“How Beautiful We Were”

The most recent novel by Mbue, “How Beautiful We Were” tells the story of a small African village that fights back against an American oil company destroying their land. The book shares similar themes of social justice, inequality, and resilience in the face of adversity as “Behold the Dreamers.” However, the narrative style of “How Beautiful We Were” is more fragmented and experimental compared to Mbue’s debut novel.

“The Longings of Jende Jonga”

A short story that served as the basis for “Behold the Dreamers,” “The Longings of Jende Jonga” was published in The Paris Review in 2015. It explores the same immigrant experience as the full-length novel and serves as a precursor to its events. However, the story is more focused on Jende and Neni, the main characters, and their relationship, whereas the novel involves many more characters.

“Behold the Dreamers” “How Beautiful We Were”
Published 2016 2021
Setting New York City, 2007-2008 African village, unspecified time period
Themes Immigration, identity, social class, the American Dream Social justice, environmentalism, community
Narrative Style Linear with multiple points of view Experimental, nonlinear

“At the Embassy of Cambodia”

A short story published in The Wall Street Journal in 2013, “At the Embassy of Cambodia” follows a young woman’s experiences living in Washington D.C. It shares similar themes of displacement and the immigrant experience as “Behold the Dreamers,” but the story is more focused on one character’s journey.

Overall, Imbolo Mbue’s body of work shares common themes of social justice, immigration, and the search for identity, with each work exploring these themes in distinct ways.

Social, Cultural, and Historical Contexts Explored in the Book

“Behold the Dreamers” provides a nuanced perspective on social, cultural, and historical contexts, highlighting the experiences of Cameroonian immigrants pursuing the American Dream. Set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, the book also explores issues related to class, race, and identity.

Imbolo Mbue’s portrayal of social context is particularly poignant, showcasing the stark contrast between the wealthy Edwards family and the struggling Jonga family. Through the characters, the book exposes the systemic inequalities in the American Dream and poignantly depicts the lives of those who often fall through the cracks.

The book is also steeped in cultural context, offering a glimpse into the cultural traditions, beliefs, and values of Cameroonian immigrants. The portrayal of the Jonga family’s sacrifices, particularly in the face of the cultural assimilation demanded by society, adds depth and nuance to the story.

Furthermore, the book explores significant historical events such as the 2008 financial crash, shining a light on the devastating impact it had on vulnerable communities. Mbue expertly weaves these contexts together, making for a compelling and thought-provoking read that resonates with readers on many different levels.

Impact and Legacy of “Behold the Dreamers”

“Behold the Dreamers” has left a significant impact and legacy within the literary community. The novel was the winner of the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Fiction, and was named a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Imbolo Mbue’s masterful storytelling has captivated audiences and gained critical acclaim. The book’s exploration of immigration, social class, and the American Dream continues to resonate with readers and listeners alike.

Awards and Recognitions

Year Award
2017 PEN/Faulkner Award
2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Fiction
2016 New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

The numerous awards and recognitions garnered by “Behold the Dreamers” attest to the novel’s lasting impact and legacy. It has earned its place among some of the most influential and lauded works of contemporary literature.

The significance of “Behold the Dreamers” within the literary canon cannot be understated. The novel continues to ignite conversation and inspire introspection in readers and listeners. It has cemented Imbolo Mbue as a powerful voice in contemporary literature, and its enduring legacy is a testament to its quality and power.

Personal Reflection and Recommendation

After immersing myself in the world of “Behold the Dreamers” through the audiobook version, I was left with a profound appreciation for Imbolo Mbue’s masterful storytelling. The plot, characters, and themes are woven together seamlessly, resulting in a satisfying and impactful listening experience.

The narration by Prentice Onayemi truly brings the characters to life and adds another layer of depth to the story. Onayemi’s performance captures the nuances of each character’s personality and emotions, making the audiobook version a truly immersive experience.

While the book addresses heavier topics like immigration and social class, it never feels didactic or heavy-handed. Instead, the themes are explored through the characters’ personal journeys, making the book feel intimate and relatable while still addressing broader issues.

I highly recommend “Behold the Dreamers” as an audiobook for anyone looking for a thought-provoking and compelling narrative. Whether you’re a fan of literary fiction or simply someone seeking a great story, this audiobook is not to be missed.

personal reflection and recommendation

Availability and Formats

If you’re interested in experiencing “Behold the Dreamers” as an audiobook, you’re in luck. The audiobook is widely available from various retailers in a range of formats to suit your needs and preferences.

Formats Available

Currently, “Behold the Dreamers” is available in the following formats:

  • CD
  • MP3 CD
  • Downloadable audio

No matter which format you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy the captivating storytelling and exceptional performance by Prentice Onayemi, the narrator of the audiobook.

Where to Purchase

You can purchase the “Behold the Dreamers” audiobook from a variety of retailers, including:

Retailer Format(s) Available Price Range
Amazon CD, MP3 CD, Downloadable audio $20-$30
Audible MP3 CD, Downloadable audio $14.95-$27.99
Barnes & Noble CD, MP3 CD $18-$30

With multiple options for both formats and retailers, you won’t have any trouble finding the perfect way to experience “Behold the Dreamers” as an audiobook.


In conclusion, “Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue is a compelling audiobook that offers a profound and multi-faceted exploration of the American Dream, immigration, and social class. Mbue’s nuanced and insightful writing style is captivating and memorable, making the audiobook an enjoyable and thought-provoking listening experience.

From the engaging plot and well-crafted characters to the immersive setting and exploration of relevant themes, “Behold the Dreamers” is a standout work of fiction. The audiobook performance and production quality are also top-notch, further enhancing the overall experience.

While there may be minor flaws or criticisms to be made, overall, “Behold the Dreamers” is a highly recommended audiobook for anyone interested in thought-provoking contemporary fiction, exploring relevant social, cultural, and historical contexts, and experiencing a masterful writing style in an audio format.

Whether you are a fan of Imbolo Mbue’s previous works or discovering her for the first time, “Behold the Dreamers” is a must-listen audiobook that is sure to leave a lasting impact.

Lastly, the audiobook is widely available in various formats, making it easily accessible for listeners. Whether you prefer physical copies, e-books, or streaming formats, “Behold the Dreamers” can be found in most major bookstores and online platforms.


Is “Behold the Dreamers” available as an audiobook?

Yes, “Behold the Dreamers” is available as an audiobook.

Who is the author of “Behold the Dreamers”?

The author of “Behold the Dreamers” is Imbolo Mbue.

What is the plot summary of “Behold the Dreamers”?

“Behold the Dreamers” follows the lives of two families – the Jongas, immigrants from Cameroon, and the Edwards, a wealthy New York City couple. It explores the complexities of their relationships and the pursuit of the American dream amidst the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis.

Where does the story of “Behold the Dreamers” take place?

The story of “Behold the Dreamers” is primarily set in New York City, with significant portions also taking place in Cameroon.

What are the main themes and motifs in “Behold the Dreamers”?

“Behold the Dreamers” explores themes of ambition, identity, immigration, social class, and the pursuit of the American dream. Motifs such as family, sacrifice, and cultural clashes are also prominent in the book.

Can you provide a character analysis of “Behold the Dreamers”?

The main characters in “Behold the Dreamers” undergo personal growth and face various challenges throughout the story. Jende Jonga, Neni Jonga, Clark Edwards, and Cindy Edwards are some of the key characters who navigate cultural differences, financial struggles, and the complexities of their relationships.

What can you tell me about the writing style and narration in the audiobook of “Behold the Dreamers”?

The writing style in the audiobook of “Behold the Dreamers” is engaging and evocative, capturing the emotions and experiences of the characters. The narration enhances the storytelling, bringing the diverse voices and accents of the characters to life.

How is the audiobook performance and production quality of “Behold the Dreamers”?

The audiobook performance of “Behold the Dreamers” is highly praised, with the narrator delivering a captivating performance, maintaining consistent pacing, and ensuring clarity in vocal delivery. The overall production quality of the audiobook is top-notch.

What has been the audience reception of “Behold the Dreamers”?

“Behold the Dreamers” has garnered positive reviews from readers and audiobook listeners. It has been praised for its powerful storytelling, thought-provoking themes, and well-developed characters. However, it has also received some mixed reviews, with certain readers having differing opinions on certain aspects of the book.

How does “Behold the Dreamers” compare to other works by Imbolo Mbue?

“Behold the Dreamers” shares similarities with Imbolo Mbue’s other works in terms of immersive storytelling and exploration of themes related to identity, immigration, and the pursuit of dreams. However, each of her works has its unique narrative and character dynamics.

What social, cultural, and historical contexts are explored in “Behold the Dreamers”?

“Behold the Dreamers” delves into social issues such as immigration, race, and class, offering insights into the experiences of immigrants in America and the impact of the financial crisis. It also sheds light on cultural dynamics between Cameroon and the United States.

What is the impact and legacy of “Behold the Dreamers”?

“Behold the Dreamers” has had a significant impact, garnering critical acclaim, winning awards, and resonating with readers around the world. The book’s exploration of immigrant experiences and social issues has contributed to broader conversations on topics such as the American dream, globalization, and socioeconomic disparities.

Can you provide a personal reflection and recommendation for “Behold the Dreamers” audiobook?

Personally, I found the “Behold the Dreamers” audiobook to be a compelling and thought-provoking experience. Imbolo Mbue’s storytelling talent shines through, captivating listeners with her vivid portrayals of characters and their struggles. I highly recommend this audiobook to those interested in immersive narratives that delve into issues of race, immigration, and the pursuit of dreams.

Where can I find and purchase the “Behold the Dreamers” audiobook?

The “Behold the Dreamers” audiobook is available for purchase online through various audiobook platforms and retailers. Some popular options include Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

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