Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers book by Imbolo Mbue against brick wall

a nutshell: seeking a ‘better life’ in NYC for his Cameroonian family while striving for a green card, Jende finds employment as a chauffeur for a Lehman Brothers exec and discovers how bleak the Manhattan lifestyle is below its glittering surface

a line: “American women do not use love potions.”  “That’s what you think? … They call it lingerie.”

an image: Jende contrasts the 2008 financial crisis with the curse that befell Ancient Egypt, which he blames on Egyptians choosing riches over righteousness, worshipping idols and enslaving fellow humans – the Americans did no such thing, he believes

a thought: I’ll try not to say too much, but the ending felt beyond crushing, particularly in its seemingly normalised misogyny

a fact: Mbue lost her own job in the 2008 crash and was inspired to write this novel when observing drivers, who were predominantly black, waiting on Wall Street

 

want to read Behold the Dreamers? visit here

Seeing Red by Lina Meruane (tr. Megan McDowell)

a nutshell: a short, graphic examination of a NY-based Chilean woman’s raw spiral into near-blindness and the resulting reorientation in dynamics with those around her*

a line: “A medusa, a jellyfish, an ocean flagellum, a gelatinous organism with tentacles that would cause a rash. There was no pulling my mother off of me”

an image: at one point the narrator describes a hot water bottle that had fallen to the floor as like a dead child, which typifies the blunt, unapologetic indignation quick to rise in the midst of the blindness

a thought: there were – when I could look – curious quirks throughout, e.g. the way Lina often truncates thoughts with a full stop, sometimes ending sentences abruptly with “I” or “we” – again perhaps a sign of her vexation

a fact: the author shares a first name with the protagonist and was herself temporarily blind when her eyes haemorrhaged and blood flooded her vision during her PhD at NYU – this novel is semi-autobiographical

 

want to read Seeing Red? visit here

*N.B. not for anyone with a particular squeamishness for eyes – a category which, by a stroke of bad luck, I fall v firmly into