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Imbolo Mbue, photo by Kinko SanoImbolo Mbue


NYS Writers Institute, Thursday, October 6, 2016
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, Campus Center, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus


Behold the DreamersEVENT LISTING:
Imbolo Mbue, Cameroonian-American, will read from her highly anticipated first novel Behold the Dreamers (2016), on Thursday, October 6 at 8:00 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the Performing Arts Center on UAlbany’s uptown campus. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m. the author will hold an informal seminar in the Assembly Hall of the Campus Center on the UAlbany uptown campus. Mbue’s appearance is the first event in a series “The New Americans: Recent Immigrant Experiences in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Film,” which examines the lives of recent immigrant groups in the United States, the challenges they face, and their contributions and achievements.  Free and open to the public, the events are sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, University Auxiliary Services, and UAlbany’s College of Arts & Sciences and School of Public Health.

Imbolo Mbue is, in the words of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “a deft, often lyrical observer. . . . [whose] meticulous storytelling announces a writer in command of her gifts, plumbing the desires and disappointments of our emerging global culture.” Her debut novel Behold the Dreamers (2016) is, according to the New York Times, “a dissection of the American Dream…savage and compassionate in all the right places.”  The story itself, which bestselling author Jacqueline Woodson called “startlingly beautiful, thoughtful, and both timely and timeless,” explores marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream as it tells the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy.  The Washington Post said the book “illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse.”

Praising Mbue, Jonathan Franzen, National Book Award–winning author of Purity and Freedom, says that she “would be a formidable storyteller anywhere, in any language. It’s our good luck that she and her stories are American,” and Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train agrees that “Imbolo Mbue is a breathtaking talent,” describing Behold the Dreamers as “dazzling, fast-paced, and exquisitely written…one of those rare novels that will change the way you see the world.”

Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a BS from Rutgers University and an MA from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for more than a decade, she lives in New York City.

In an interview that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Mbue shares that she grew up in Cameroon, frequently going without running water, and with no public libraries in the villages and towns in which she lived. After emigrating to the United States at the age of 17 she earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and circulated through various jobs, including two weeks in door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales.  She moved to New York in 2005 and worked her way through a Masters program in education and psychology at Teachers College at Columbia University.  When economic uncertainty set in during the late 2000s, she chose to forgo an opportunity to seek a Ph.D., and hold onto a job—which she ultimately lost.  Unemployed in early 2011, she happened to pass Manhattan’s Time Warner Building.  Noticing the chauffeurs waiting outside, and the executives stepping in, she found the inspiration for her new novel when she wondered, “What would it be like for an African immigrant to work as a chauffeur for a Wall Street guy? What would the relationship be like, and how would the recession affect them?”

These were the questions that drove Mbue who, as she told Agence France-Presse, “started the book when my first child was a baby, … and I rewrote it while nursing my second.”  In 2012 she sent draft after draft to literary agent Susan Golomb, who represents a number of successful literary authors including Jonathan Franzen and William T. Vollamn. In 2014 Golomb agreed to represent the novel—which Random House recently purchased for over $1 million. Sony’s TriStar Pictures purchased the film rights, with George Clooney and Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Pictures producing.

[Note: Susan Golomb, who was originally scheduled to appear with Mbue on October 6th, will be unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.]

Mbue’s improbable emergence as an author, and the remarkable rise of her novel highlight the unique perspective that she offers through her writing. In The Wall Street Journal interview she mused, “the idea of the American Dream, I think it needs to be redefined.” 

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst