Neni Jonga Quotes in Behold the Dreamers
Winston had friends of all races, she knew, but she had no idea he had so many white friends […] It was one thing to be in the same class with them, work for them, smile at them on the bus; it was a whole other thing to laugh and chat with them for hours, making sure she enunciated every word so they wouldn't say her accent was too difficult to understand. No way could she spend time with a white woman and be herself the way she was with Betty or Fatou […] And the people in the bar […] they were mostly associates at the firm where Winston worked, so she had to be careful not to embarrass him. Nothing shamed her more than black people embarrassing themselves in front of white people by behaving the way white people expect them to behave.
She was noticing something for the first time […] On both sides of the street […] she saw people walking with their kind: a white man holding hands with a white woman; a black teenager giggling with other black (or Latino) teenagers; a white mother pushing a stroller alongside another white mother; a black woman chatting with a black woman […] Even in New York City […] men and women, young and old, rich and poor, preferred their kind when it came to those they kept closest. And why shouldn't they? It was far easier to do so than to spend one’s limited energy trying to blend into a world one was never meant to be a part of […] She had her world in Harlem and never again would she try to wriggle her way into a world in midtown, not even for just an hour.
In his first days in America, it was here he came every night to take in the city. It was here he often sat to call her when he got so lonely and homesick that the only balm that worked was the sound of her voice. During those calls, he would ask her how Liomi was doing, what she was wearing, what her plans for the weekend were, and she would tell him everything, leaving him even more wistful for the beauty of her smile, the hearth in his mother’s kitchen, the light breeze at Down Beach, the tightness of Liomi's hug, the coarse jokes and laughter of his friends as they drank Guinness at a drinking spot; leaving him craving everything he wished he hadn’t left behind. During those times, he told her, he often wondered if leaving home in search of something as fleeting as fortune was ever worthwhile.
“First it was my father…he thought he had the right, you know?” Cindy said.
“Drag my mother into that abandoned house…force her… do it to her by force…don’t give a shit about…not care for a second about what would happen to the child…”
She sniffled, took another sip of wine, and wept.
“And the government…our government,” she moaned, slurring, tears running down her cheeks, snot running down her nose. “They had the right, too. Force my mother to carry the child of a stranger. Force her to give birth to the child because…because…I don’t know why!”
Many would be convinced that the plague that had descended on the homes of former Lehman employees was only a few blocks from theirs. Restaurateurs, artists, private tutors, magazine publishers, foundation directors, limousine drivers, nannies, housekeepers, employment agencies, virtually everyone who stood along the path where money flowed to and from the Street fretted and panicked that day. For some, the fears were justified: Their bread and wine would indeed disappear, along with the billions of dollars that vanished the day Lehman died.
“In America today, having documents is not enough. Look at how many people with papers are struggling. Look at how even some Americans are suffering. They were born in this country. They have American passports, and yet they are sleeping on the street, going to bed hungry, losing their jobs and houses every day in this…this economic crisis.”
“You should have been with me last week when I saw this man who used to drive another executive at Lehman Brothers. We used to sit together outside the building sometimes; he was a fresh round man. I saw him downtown: The man looked like he had his last good meal a year ago. He has not been able to find another job. He says too many people want to be chauffeurs now […] Everyone is losing jobs everywhere and looking for new jobs, anything to pay bills. So you tell me—if he, an American, a white man with papers, cannot get a new chauffeur job then what about me? They say the country will get better, but you know what? I don’t know if I can stay here until that happens. I don’t know if I can continue suffering like this just because I want to live in America.”
By her late twenties, all she could think about was America […] The African-Americans she saw on TV in Cameroon were happy and successful, well-educated and respectable, and she'd come to believe that if they could flourish in America, surely she could, too […] Even after she'd seen the movies Boyz n the Hood and Do the Right Thing, she couldn’t be swayed or convinced that the kind of black life depicted represented anything but a very small percentage of black life, just like Americans probably understood that the images they saw of war and starvation in Africa were but a very small percentage of African life […] Every picture she'd seen of Cameroonians in America was a portrait of bliss: children laughing in snow; couples smiling at a mall; families posing in front of a nice house with a nice car nearby. America, to her, was synonymous with happiness.
Later, as she stood in front of the mirror staring at her face before applying her exfoliating mask, she promised herself she would fight Jende till the end. She had to. It wasn’t only that she loved New York City […] It wasn’t just because she was hopeful that she would one day become a pharmacist […] It was hardly only about […] things she could never find in her hometown, things like horse-drawn carriages on city streets, and gigantic lighted Christmas trees in squares and plazas, and pretty parks where musicians played for free beside polychromatic foliage […] It was mostly for what her children would be deprived of […] It was for the boundless opportunities they would be denied […] She was going to fight for her children, and for herself, because no one journeyed far away from home to return without a fortune amassed or dream achieved.