A Cameroonian immigrant to the United States who settles in Harlem, New York while awaiting the approval of his application for asylum. This makes Jende an undocumented immigrant. Jende was born in 1970 and comes… read analysis of Jende Jonga
A thirty-three year old Cameroonian immigrant and Jende’s wife. When the novel begins, Neni has been in the United States for a year-and-a-half, living with Jende and their son, Liomi. Neni works as… read analysis of Neni Jonga
Jende and Neni’s six-year-old son, who will soon be turning seven. He is a good student and an affable boy. His mother puts a great deal of pressure on him to be successful and… read analysis of Liomi Jonga
Jende’s cousin. His late father came from “a wealthy Banso clan,” which afforded him the ability to send Winston to Baptist High School in Buea, a boarding school. He gained American citizenship by joining… read analysis of Winston Avera
Jende’s employer, Clark is a workaholic, matter-of-fact, and authoritative investment banker at Lehman Brothers. Clark is the husband of Cindy Edwards and the father of Vince and Mighty. Clark has worked at Lehman… read analysis of Clark Edwards
Clark Edwards’s wife and the mother of Vince and Mighty. The fifty-year-old Cindy is described as blond, slim, and very attractive, with Jende noting that she strongly resembles the actress Annette Bening. Jende… read analysis of Cindy Edwards
Clark and Cindy Edwards’s eldest son and Mighty’s older brother. He is a student at Columbia University School of Law. Previously, he attended the Dalton School and New York University. Jende notes that… read analysis of Vince Edwards
Clark and Cindy Edwards’s younger son, who is nine when the novel begins. His parents have him enrolled in a range of activities, including piano lessons and hockey. He is close to his older… read analysis of Mighty Edwards
Bubakar is “a fast-talking Nigerian” immigration lawyer with a practice in Flatbush, Brooklyn who helps Jende navigate the American immigration system. Bubakar maintains an “ultraclean and perfectly organized office” and has a law diploma from… read analysis of Bubakar
Clark Edwards’s secretary at Lehman Brothers. She is friendly with Jende and uses their friendship to try to get information out of him about what he hears during Clark’s frequent phone conversations in his… read analysis of Leah
Neni’s precalculus instructor at Borough of Manhattan Community College. He is described as tall and handsome with long hair. He is nearly forty years old and a PhD student in mathematics at the Graduate… read analysis of Jerry
A friend of Jende’s from Limbe who arrived in the United States around the same time as Jende. He works at a department store and lives in a gated community in Phoenix, Arizona. Arkamo… read analysis of Arkamo
The Edwards family’s regular maid. As of 2008, she has been working for the family for twenty-two years. Neni fills in for her once as Cindy Edwards’s maid and Mighty Edwards’s nanny while… read analysis of Anna
Pa Ikola Jonga
Jende’s father, Neni’s father-in-law, Ma Jonga’s husband, and Liomi and Timba’s grandfather. He still resides in Limbe at the start of the novel, where he spent his life working as a… read analysis of Pa Ikola Jonga
Papa Jonga’s wife, Jende’s mother, Neni’s mother-in-law, and Liomi and Timba’s grandmother. She is “a staunch card-carrying parishioner” of the Mizpah Baptist Church and a member of its Kakane women’s group… read analysis of Ma Jonga
A close friend of Neni’s who works as a certified nursing assistant at nursing homes and has been enrolled in nursing school for more than seven years. She has been in the U.S. since… read analysis of Betty
The associate dean of students at Borough of Manhattan Community College who nominates students for scholarships. He is a young white man “with a head of thick brown hair” and wears “geek-chic black-framed glasses.” Neni … read analysis of Dean Flipkins
An old friend of Jende’s from Limbe. Jende recalls that he was shaped like “a tree trunk.” However, in a dream that Jende has about doublers on the eve of Lehman Brothers’ collapse, Bosco… read analysis of Bosco
The pastor at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. She has long, gray hair and wears red-framed glasses. Neni confides in Natasha regarding Jende’s troubles with immigration and Natasha pledges that the Jongas will… read analysis of Natasha
A friend of Jende’s from Limbe. He arrived in the United States around the same time as Jende and lives in Houston, Texas. He gets citizenship by marrying an American single mother.
Neni’s close friend. She is also a Cameroonian immigrant in New York. She has seven children with her husband, Ousmane. Three of her children are in their twenties and four are teenagers; all of them are American. Her two brothers and octogenarian parents are still living in Cameroon.
Winston’s girlfriend. To Neni, who meets her at Winston’s birthday party at the Hudson Hotel, she looks no older than twenty-six. She is a white woman with curly, dark hair who works alongside Winston as an associate at the Wall Street corporate law firm Dustin, Connors, and Solomon.
The CEO of Lehman Brothers. Jende notices how “genial” his voice sounds, compared to Clark Edwards’s authoritative one. Tom is determined not to expose the financial services firm for fraudulent activity, despite Clark’s desire to “[come] clean.”
Cindy Edwards’s best friend. She’s a frequent traveler who spends her time in various places, including San Francisco and Florence, Italy, for both work and pleasure. Her mother lives in a nursing home in Stamford, Connecticut. She is married to a man named Sean.
Mighty Edwards’s nanny. Later in the novel, she plans to move to Portland, which prompts Vince to ask Neni if she would be willing to take over Stacy’s duties.
Winston’s girlfriend from high school. He finds her on Facebook and looks to rekindle a relationship with her, though she lives in Houston, Texas. She has a boyfriend there and works in accounting. Winston eventually lures her to New York, starts a relationship with her, and gets her pregnant.
Amatimba “Timba” Monyengi Jonga
Jende and Neni’s daughter and Liomi’s younger sister. She is born on December 10, 2008 at Harlem Hospital. She is the only member of the Jonga family who is a natural-born American citizen.
The owner of the livery cabs in the Bronx and Jende’s former employer.
Winston’s co-worker. He recommends Jende to Clark Edwards when the latter is seeking applications for a chauffeur. He is married to a woman named Mimi and has a daughter named Nora. Both he and Mimi are friends with the Edwardses.
Frank’s wife and a good friend of the Edwards family. She expresses concern for Cindy Edwards when she notices her friend going through a severe depression. She and Frank have a daughter, Nora, who is Cindy’s goddaughter.
One of Cindy Edwards’s best friends, along with Cheri.
A friend of Neni’s from community college who later befriends other members of the Jonga family. She is from Nigeria and lives in New York.
Jende’s middle brother. He drives the Jongas from the airport in Douala, Cameroon back to their hometown of Limbe.
Clark Edwards’s twin sister. She grew up with him in Evanston, Illinois, where their father was a professor of physics at Northwestern University. She currently lives in Seattle with her daughter, Keila.