Mary Okeke Reviews is one of my favorite literary blogs out there. Its creator Mary Okeke recently began the Blogger Spotlight series on her blog and yesterday she featured me! It's a really good interview and I'm grateful to Mary for the feature. Head over to Mary Okeke Reviews to find out more about me and my blog Incessant Scribble. Enjoy!
Behold the Dreamers is a story about a Cameroonian family living in the United States of America. Jende made it out of Cameroun on a visiting visa three years ago and was able to, over a period of time, arrange for his girl Neni and his son Liomi to join him in America. Two weeks after their arrival Jende marries Neni in a small ceremony in New York. Neni soon finds work under the table as a home health aide and also begins taking community college classes so that she can get the credits needed to get into pharmacy school. A year and a half later (the beginning of the novel), Jende gets a nicer, better paying job chauffeuring the wealthy Mr. Edwards and his family. The new job and much larger paycheck makes the Jonga's euphoric. Their sun seems to be rising and all their American dreams seem poised to come true. However, the issue of their immigration status looms over them like a dark cloud. On arrival to America Jende had hired a Nigerian lawyer to figure out a way for him and his family to stay in the country. The pathway to residency proposed by his lawyer is really shaky but they go along with it hoping for the best. Will the Jonga's soar high like a brightly colored hot air balloon or will all their hopes, dreams and aspirations explode mid-flight and fall to the ground like a confetti of burning debris?
Behold the Dreamers was previously titled The Longings of Jende Jonga and I loved the previous title so much that for some time I refused to refer to it as Behold the Dreamers. Anyway, publicity for this novel was in full swing last year way before its 2016 release and the anticipation was high among book readers. Imbolo Mbue was rumored to have received a seven figure advance for this book and so everyone wondered what tale Mbue could possibly have spun to receive such an enormous advance. Behold the Dreamers is a riveting immigrant tale that's relevant for the times we live in. I could relate to the sentiments expressed by Jende & Neni but especially those expressed by Neni. Of the two characters, one is terribly, shamefully weak and wants to give up on the fight while the other is open and willing to pursue all possible options to U.S. residency legal or illegal. I read page after page, completely consumed by Behold the Dreamers while outside my bedroom window morning turned to afternoon and then night. My heart grew heavier as I neared the end and I begged the stronger of the two to do something, anything. I wanted to cry for them. As a citizen of the United States who immigrated from Nigeria I could sympathize with their immigrant experience and I kept rooting for them to get a shot at their dreams. I read this novel in September right after I read the spectacular Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Both Homegoing & Behold the Dreamers were highly anticipated 2016 releases and by now you should already know that Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing is required reading. Of the two stunning debuts it was Behold the Dreamers that I found hard to shake off after reading. I kept thinking about the Jonga's like I didn't have my own day to day problems. I woke up the morning after and thought about it while getting ready for work, while commuting to work and when I returned home that evening. It's a moving debut. You need to read this novel. BUY it. BORROW it. READ it.
I began reading Achebe when I was a child. Long before I had any idea who he really was and what he represents to Nigerians and readers worldwide. We had this old carton box filled with children's books including my first Achebe books, "The Drum" and "The Flute", both of which I read many times over. Chinua Achebe is inspiring. He's incomparable. A true master of his craft. [Photo: Frank May/AFP/Getty Images]
For a long time back when I was younger I'm embarrassed to admit that I assumed this author was a woman. I never bothered to check. Sheldon's books and it's strong female protagonists were just soo good it never crossed my mind that a man could write it. When I did discover Sidney was a "he" it made me an even bigger fan. Sheldon's witty, strong willed, smart heroines are an engaging read. His death is a huge loss. [Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images]
Joanne Kathleen Rowling
I can't even explain how much the Harry Potter series mean to me. Anyone who knows me has heard me gush about Rowling's Harry Potter books over and over and over again. I don't think she gets enough credit for what she has done for literature or for the mind-blowing talent it takes to create an entirely different world. The Harry Potter books were my first literary obsession. [Photo: Scholastic]
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I still have the newspaper clippings from the July 11, 2004 Sunday Edition of the Nigerian Guardian that I cut out when I first saw Adichie's interview for her debut novel "Purple Hibiscus". I finally got to read "Purple Hibiscus" in 2007 and I finished reading it on the University of Nigeria Shuttle bus headed back to the Nsukka campus from Enugu. I sat in that bus quietly after I had finished reading it, deeply moved by everything I had read and in awe of Adichie. In 2008, my friends (Onyeka Nwelue & Eromo Egbejule) and I walked around the University of Nigeria Nsukka campus searching for the house she and Chinua Achebe once lived in. We found it and we all wrote about our experience individually (for my version of the trip search this blog for "305 Marguerite Cartwright Avenue, University of Nigeria Nsukka"). Adichie represents many things to me. She's incredibly gifted and tremendously inspiring. I could go on and on about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I'm a really big fan. [Photo: Kachifo Limited]
I was born in Lagos, Nigeria in the late 1980's. I've been passionate about books since I was a kid and later on I became equally passionate about writing my own stories. Incessant Scribble is an African literary blog I created in March 2008. It's where I review African literature, interview African authors and share my own short stories and writings.
I immigrated to America in March 2009 and bagged my Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Texas A&M in May 2016. I've got two more years before I turn thirty. Two more years to try and accomplish the literary goals I've always hoped would be checked off by that time.
"Also, [Nigerians] have a different mentality. Once someone deviates from the 'Go to School - Get a Job - Get a Family' model, he is seen as a delusional fool who is certain to fail and is discouraged at every turn. How is one supposed to make art under such conditions?" - Onyeka Nwelue
"I don't speak to provoke. I speak because I think our time on earth is short and each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we do not mean because we imagine that is what somebody wants us to say, then we are wasting our time on earth." - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"It is precisely because there are so few novels by African writers in global circulation that we ask those novels to do too much. No one novelist can bear the burden of representing a continent and no one novel should have to." - Taiye Selasi