Behold the Dreamers

Behold the Dreamers

by

Imbolo Mbue

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Behold the Dreamers: Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Jende and Neni’s baby girl is born in Harlem Hospital on December 10th, they believe that she’s their dead daughter who has returned to bring them happiness, so they name her Amatimba Monyengi. Amatimba means “she has returned” and Monyengi means “happiness.” They have a gathering in their apartment two days later, when they return from the hospital. Winston is in Houston, wooing back Maami, but nine friends gather with the Jongas “to eat and rejoice and welcome Timba to earth.”
Despite the uncertainty that awaits Jende, the Jongas’ second child is, in a way, a fulfillment of their American Dream because she is the first member of the family who is a natural-born American citizen. She is also evidence of Neni and Jonga’s triumph over their early circumstances—hopelessness and being kept apart.
Themes
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Jende calls Clark to share the news, and Clark tells Jende that he can take off as much time as he needs. Anna stops by with a box of size-two diapers a couple of days later, which he and Neni assume come from the Edwardses. A day later, a letter arrives from Immigration. It says that Jende is subject to removal from the United States due to over-staying his visa. He’s to appear before an immigration judge in the second week of February to show why he shouldn’t be removed from the country.
The Jongas assume that the gift came from the Edwardses, but this is unlikely, given Cindy’s coldness. The gift is probably from Anna herself. The arrival of Timba coincides with the prospect of Jende’s deportation. This makes Jende’s case more urgent because his removal from the country will deprive Timba of the future he and Neni dreamed for her.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
When Jende calls Bubakar about the letter, the lawyer assures him that this is typical and they’ll just continue to appeal. Jende wants to know how much this will cost, and Bubakar admits that it’ll be expensive. Jende then calls Winston, who thinks that Bubakar is taking Jende “down a bad road.” He calls Bubakar “a useless loudmouthed buffoon” and that a former colleague of his, who’s now in immigration law, has told him that asylum applications couldn’t be won with ridiculous tales about a man who ran to America out of fear of being killed by his father-in-law. What Winston’s colleague finds so strange about Jende’s case is that it took so long to process. There are asylum cases that disappear for so long that applicants wait for months or years for interviews or decisions, but Jende’s case was extreme. Either he’s unlucky or has a very lazy lawyer.
The continuation of appeals will benefit Bubakar, because Jende will have to keep paying him. However, there’s no guarantee that it’ll result in any change due to the very implausible story that Bubakar told to get Jende asylum. Though Winston recommended Bubakar, he no longer has faith in Bubakar’s competence, in addition to regarding him as a lazy, vulgar person. Though Winston understandably has his own life to deal with, it’s rather strange that he didn’t offer these suggestions to Jende much sooner and that he didn’t advise Jende to seek a consultation with another lawyer.
Themes
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Jende asks Winston if his former colleague can take him on as a client, but the colleague replies that he can’t. He specializes in investor visas—“helping foreign billionaires and multimillionaires obtain entrance and legal status in America through investment, business development and trade.” Still, the colleague advises Jende to find a smarter lawyer than Bubakar. Winston wonders why Bubakar didn’t use a political asylum story, and Jende wonders why Winston didn’t ask this during their first meeting with Bubakar.
Winston’s colleague could take on Jende’s case—and could even offer to do it pro bono, or for free. However, he won’t because it isn’t lucrative. Jende learns that there are immigration cases for “little people” like him and separate cases for those who are likely to bring a lot of revenue into the U.S., and, for that reason, are very likely to have their visas approved.
Themes
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
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Jende talks to Neni about his asylum case. They agree to stick with Bubakar and encourage each other to be hopeful. But, that night, they each have nightmares. Jende dreams of strange men in uniform knocking on his door and then taking him away, while Neni dreams of returning to “a largely deserted Limbe.” When Neni wakes up, she pulls Timba closer to her and kisses her. Her daughter will return to Cameroon as an American, and Liomi will become American, too.
Jende and Neni stick with Bubakar because they have no other recourse; they simply can’t afford another lawyer. Jende’s dream reflects his fear of being deported, while Neni’s fear is that she’ll be forced back to a country that she believes has nothing to offer her. She doesn’t want her children returning to a land that offers them nothing.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
The Sunday before Christmas, while Jende is working, Neni takes the children to church. She takes the subway to Greenwich Village and enters a house of worship filled with middle-aged white people. The pastor is a woman with long gray hair and red-framed glasses who’s preaching about “some kind of coming revolution.” After the service, the pastor approaches Neni and introduces herself as Natasha. Other congregants also come over to greet Neni and to admire Timba, who’s sleeping in her carrier. A man tells Neni that he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon many years ago. Neni is surprised and excited to meet someone who’s been to her country, though he was stationed in a region she’d never been to. She feels as though she’s “reconnected with a long-lost friend.”
Unlike Neni’s experience at the bar of the Hudson Hotel, when she was also in a room full of white people, she feels welcome at Judson Memorial Church. Much of this has to do with how the congregants make her feel welcome by introducing themselves to her, which diminishes her worry about presenting herself to the group and being rejected. She’s also happy to meet the former Peace Corps volunteer because, though he’s not Cameroonian, he understands some things about her country, which help her to feel less alienated.
Themes
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon
Later that night, Neni tells Jende about how happy everyone was to welcome her, Liomi, and Timba to the church. Jende figures that it’s because they don’t have any black people there and are just trying to prove to their friends how much they like black people. Neni suggests that the church can help Jende with staying in America. He laughs derisively, thinking it a stupid idea. Neni accuses him of not being willing to fight to remain in the country. Jende angrily says that he works as a servant just so that he can stay in America, but that if America says that the Jongas are unwelcome in the country, he’s not going to beg to stay. He slams the bedroom door and goes to sleep in the living room, leaving Neni to whimper in the darkness of their bedroom.
Jende is skeptical of the welcome that Neni, Liomi, and Timba got at the church. However, given that he’s expressed greater ease than Neni in predominately white environments, his reaction suggests that he’s threatened by the prospect of his wife finding friendships and a sense of community outside of him and their West African friends. It suggests that, even if Jende is deported, Neni and his children would be able to continue on in America and would thrive happily without him. He also feels impotent due to his inability to fulfill his promises to his family.
Themes
The Sustainability of the American Dream Theme Icon
The Modern Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family and Belonging Theme Icon