Picture of author.

Imbolo Mbue

Author of Behold the Dreamers

3+ Works 2,592 Members 130 Reviews

About the Author

Imbolo Mbue was born in Limbe, Cameroon in 1982. She has been a resident in the U.S. for more than 10 years. She earned her B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. She won the PEN/Faulkner Award for her novel Behold the Dreamers in 2017 which was also chosen by Oprah show more Winfrey to be in her book club. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Includes the names: Imole Mbue, Mbue Imbolo

Works by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers (2016) 1,967 copies
How Beautiful We Were (2020) 624 copies
Ovde dolaze sanjari (2016) 1 copy

Associated Works


2016 (15) 2017 (10) 2018 (15) 2020 (12) 2021 (10) adult fiction (11) Africa (87) American Dream (16) ARC (11) audio (14) audiobook (17) book club (12) Cameroon (87) contemporary (15) contemporary fiction (22) ebook (23) environment (13) family (34) fiction (235) goodreads (13) Harlem (8) historical fiction (10) immigrant experience (8) immigrants (61) immigration (51) Kindle (21) literary fiction (17) marriage (13) New York (25) New York City (44) novel (31) Oprah's Book Club (9) owned (9) read (19) read in 2017 (11) recession (15) signed (10) to-read (405) unread (12) USA (11)

Common Knowledge



#ReadAroundTheWorld. #Cameroon

“I know nothing about how a girl makes men pay for their crimes, but I have the rest of my life to figure it out.”

Imbolo Mbue brings us a story set in the 1980s in a fictional African village Kosawa, presumably based on her native Cameroon. This is a powerful hard-hitting story about greed, colonialism and environmental exploitation.

An American oil company Pexton has been drilling for oil in Kosawa and consequently contaminating the water causing the deaths of many. Initially the villagers believe the American assurances that they will leave and all will be well, but one day the village madman deviates from his stereotype and steps up to lead a revolution against the oppressors.

The main character in the book is a girl called Thula who eventually goes to study overseas and returns as an activist. The point of view shifts between Thula, her family and her classmates, all of them deeply impacted by the tragedy, and each bringing their own insights such as:

“We wondered if America was populated with cheerful people like that overseer, which made it hard for us to understand them: How could they be happy when we were dying for their sake?”

"I told her that on all sides the dead were too many—on the side of the vanquished, on the side of the victors, on the side of those who'd never chosen sides. What good were sides? Who could ever hail themselves triumphant while they still lived? Perhaps someday, I added, after all the dead have been counted, there will be one number for the living to ponder, though the number will never tell the full story of what has been lost."

This story exposes the evils of corruption and greed and highlights the extent and impact of environmental disasters which are often covered up. I can understand why the author chose not to name the location as she does not spare the government and the dictator for their complicity and corruption either. I think this is a powerful important book with a clear and strong message. 5 stars.
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mimbza | 28 other reviews | Apr 7, 2024 |
This takes place in an unnamed country in Africa under a dictator’s thumb. He has made a deal with an oil company that the company may take all the oil under one village’s land.

The dictator makes masses of money from this project. The oil company also makes masses of money, especially as it turns out, they had signed an agreement that they have no responsibility for consequences for the villagers’ health, the taking of their land or disruption of their way of life. At first the villagers are excited to learn there will be jobs. But very few of them receive jobs or money. Those who do seem to be creatures owned by the company. The environmental impacts are huge: oil spills destroy farm land, the once pristine river has been dubbed the River of Death due to its chemical load and constant burning at the oil site destroys the air.

When children sicken and die, the men of the village organize a delegation to the capital to talk to the government, but the delegation disappears. Another delegation then goes to check on the first with discouraging results. The dictator solves the complaints by sending in in his military to permanently quiet the villagers by massacring them.

An international justice organization takes up the case to expose the American oil company. At first it seems things will get better as the company agrees on some reparations and bottled water for the children. They provide secondary schooling for the older children and the best scholar in the village, a girl named Thula, is sponsored to go to the United State for college and post graduate work. She learns how ordinary people can stand together to change the course of history.

But nothing really changes – more broken promises, more violence and killings. It’s a pattern that has repeated itself since the first Europeans arrived in the area to take slaves and then later ‘recruited’ workers for their rubber plantations. It’s a story of greed and money and ‘might making right’ whether the might belongs to the colonialists, the corporations, or the leaders within the country itself. All is compounded by suspicions of tribes against each other and the naïve belief of the villagers that if the authorities only knew about the people’s suffering, they would act to fix it.

This book is pretty bleak. Are there answers? I’m also left (as I’m sure the Cameroonian author intended) contemplating how much responsibility belongs to the western nations using the oil.

This is well written with just enough hope dangled that circumstances will change to keep me reading.
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streamsong | 28 other reviews | Apr 6, 2024 |
The story of two immigrants from Cameroon trying to make it in NYC around the time of the financial collapse.

It's good for me to read things about how difficult everyday life can be for so many people and how lucky we are to live in America despite its flaws. The immigrants are struggling financially and the rich struggle emotionally but all of them struggle. How they react to their problems often surprises and occasionally disappoints.

I want to give this more stars but it was less of a page turner than j want my books to be. I enjoyed it while reading but didn't feel compelled to get back to it quickly when it wasn't in my hands.… (more)
hmonkeyreads | 100 other reviews | Jan 25, 2024 |
Read this for my book club.

Plot and writing was good. My only minor complaints:

Some of the main characters were a bit too stereotypical. (Terrible relationship between all the Clarks - a privileged family - what else is new.) I would have preferred to hear either a lot more about the Wall Street issues or a lot less. The tiny bits were unsatisfying. Would've liked more about the lawyers - their points of view - cynical? idealistic? realistic? and maybe even the judges, too.

Even though the book was good, I'm giving it a 3 because it just doesn't excite me: I don't feel better for having read it, I'd rather be reading others books, and I don't believe I'll ever find myself talking about it, recommending it to a friend, etc.… (more)
donwon | 100 other reviews | Jan 22, 2024 |



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