Further Research

Cameroonian Culture

Learn more about:  Masculinity and Fatherhood in Cameroon.


This article examines social norms for fathers in Cameroon and may provide some context as to why Jende is the kind of father to Liomi that he is and give their relationship context as well as to conversely provide some insight to Neni’s relationship with her son and husband. According to the article, “The traditional childcare role of the Cameroonian father is nonspecific and not routinized, whereas the mother’s is to keep the home, perform other domestic tasks and, more importantly, to oversee and supervise sibling caregiving rather than provide direct childcare herself.” With no specific defined role for fathers, it may make sense that Jende isn’t quite sure what he wants his role in his son’s life to look like and that Neni takes on a more involved parenting role.

Nsamenag, A. Bame. (2000). “Fathers, Families, & Child Well-being in Cameroon: A Review of the Literature.” Annie E. Casey Foundation., pp, 1-17.

Learn more about:  Literature about Cameroonian Immigrants.


This article describes what Cameroonians are like more specifically as immigrants when compared to other African immigrants by examining how they are portrayed in literature. This would be helpful for putting Mbue’s portrayals of Jende and Neni in context with other immigrants from their own country. A particularly fascinating part of the article explains how in a novel about Cameroonians immigrating to France they are at once confronted by their race, a phenomenon unfamiliar to them until now.  “This sudden blackness signals that the Cameroonians have passed from the world of dreams into that of the harsh realities of life as a clandestine immigrant. The ‘northern paradise’ announced by the work’s title will be nothing but an illusion.” This is similar to how Jende and Neni may have felt when they first came to New York and then later when they learned that the United States may not be the paradise they imagined.

E. Knox, Katelyn. (2016). “Tributary Histories” Flowing into National Waterways: European Rivers in sub-Saharan African Immigration Literature. Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. 23. isw033. doi: 10.1093/isle/isw033.

Learn more about:  Post-Colonial Cameroonian Culture.


This article examines the role of the natural world in post-colonial Cameroonian culture. When Jende and Neni first arrive in New York, while they are excited to be there, the skyscrapers and pavement don’t always feel so friendly. This article’s assertation that the presence of forests and other natural things to be essential to Cameroonian culture might contribute to Jende feeling out of place. “Precolonial Cameroonians understood the spiritual implications of the forests and their deterministic value to their wellbeing and sought to conserve their cultural landscape as a source of livelihood through its spiritual realm and cultural symbols. Therefore, interfering with the sacred forest, the evil forest, or specific aspects of the landscape such as ponds, lakes, and caves procures for its victim’s serious consequences for humanity.”

Sankaran, Chitra, and John Nkengasong. “Forests and Ecocultural Disequilibrium in Two Postcolonial Novels from Cameroon and Singapore.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, vol. 53, no. 1, Mar. 2018, pp. 43–60, doi:10.1177/0021989416652447.

Immigration Law and Structural Racism


Learn more about:  Race discrimination within Immigration Law.


Within “The Intersection of Race and Class in U.S. Immigration Law and Enforcment,” Kevin R. Johnson highlights the exclusionary factors many immigrants face under the function of U.S Immigration Laws. Through close analysis of current legislation, Johnson further examines several disadvantages imposed on migrant men and women  seeking citizenship and mobility in the United States. In Behold the Dreamers, Jende’s dream of escaping a life of poverty and despondency is foiled by a corrupt immigration system that minimizes the chance of true fulfillment for immigrants in the United States. Jende’s struggle to seek a green card and citizenship is reflective of the story of many migrants encounter in the modern-day era. Through Johnson’s work, he provides a historical consensus of why individuals such as Jende are met with a number of challenges under Immigration Law and how racialised exclusion remains hidden in the foundations of American legislation.

Johnson, Kevin R. “The Intersection of Race and Class in U.S. Immigration Law and Enforcment.” Law and Contemporary Problems, vol. 72, no. 4, 2009, pp. 1–35. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20779033.

Learn more about:  African immigrants’ lives in America.

In “Strangers are like the Mist: Language in the Push and Pull of African Diaspora,” Paul Stoller examines the hardship African American immigrants encounter living in the United States. Similar to the story of Jende and his family, these migrant men and women are ravished by systemic poverty and struggle to make a living beyond their confinements. Although these African immigrants, “call themselves ‘Les New Yorkais,’ they…remain alienated.” Because of this, “they say they miss…the smells, tastes, and sounds of their homeland.” When comparing the story of Jende to these other individuals, he is subjected to same kinds of limitations. He works a menial job and yearns for the comfort of his homeland. Though he works with a attorney to obtain citizenship, he soon realizes his low socioeconomic status and the structure of Immigration Laws will always systematically limit him from receiving fair and equal opportunity in the United States.

Kane, Abdoulaye, and Todd H. Leedy, editors. African Migrations: Patterns and Perspectives. Indiana University Press, 2013. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt16gh6wd.

Learn more about:  Citizenship, Standing, and Immigration Law 

In the article, Adam B Cox examines the plenary power and impact Immigration Law has on the citizenship, opportunity, and livelihood of immigrants living in the United States. Within his work, Adam utilizes an alien-centered approach to shed light on the complex nature of Immigration Law and its ability to “infringe [upon] citizen’s constitutional rights” through its “central role in defining our national community” (423).  While the general belief was that American immigration law “concerns only the entrance and exist of newcomers…the United States has often used immigration law to preserve and promote certain (often unfortunate) notions of who we are as Americans” (402). In the context of Behold the Dreamers, the backlog of the Immigration Courts subject Jende to a unconstitional systematic bind. Because the court systems are unwilling to provide a clear route for immigrants to obtain citizenship, Jende is left unnoticed. As with most immigrants, his desire  for equal opportunity and recognition is subsequently ignored. 

Cox, Adam B., Citizenship, Standing and Immigration Law. California Law Review, Vol. 92, p. 373, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=908339

The Great Recession and the American Dream

American Flag and New York SkylineLearn more about:  The recession’s effect on married couples.


“The socially constructed and accepted notion of what it means to be a ‘successful’ family in American society is deeply rooted in the narration of wealth and can be immensely stressful to renegotiate when one’s wealth begins to decline.” This is an analysis of the communicative techniques used by American and first-generation, married couples to cope with financial insecurity caused by the 2008 Great Recession. The research suggests that couples from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to believe that “they would never reach the highest levels of wealth and financial success that the American Dream promises.” The analysts theorize that the healthiest couples were those redefined prosperity in new terms—immeasurable by monetary values—such as physical health, family quality, and education. Their findings may provide fresh insight into the deterioration of the Jonga’s and Clark’s respective marriages following Lehman Brothers’ collapse.

Jayachandiran, Chenthuran & Harrison, Kathryn & Afifi, Tamara & M. Davis, Sharde. (2016). “The United States of wealth: The communicative construction of master and counter narratives of prosperity in the aftermath of the Great Recession.” Narrative Inquiry. 26. 39-63. doi:10.1075/ni.26.1.03jay.

 Learn more about:  The American Dream narrated by Black immigrants.


This report contains firsthand depictions of the elusive American Dream by first- and second-generation African immigrants, alongside their realization of their perceived inferiority within a white-dominated society. “Taken together, these interrelated understandings of the American Dream influence how African immigrants see themselves and their families as (un)successful in the United States.” The researchers propose that “Black immigrants’ optimism about the United States is tempered by racist beliefs of American society and negative schooling experiences.” Thus, this information may explain Jende’s and Neni’s unique desires for the future. 

Knight, Michelle G., et al. “My American Dream: The Interplay Between Structure and Agency in West African Immigrants’ Educational Experiences in the United States.” Education and Urban Society, vol. 48, no. 9, Dec. 2016, pp. 827–851, doi:10.1177/0013124515589596.

Learn more about:  The Great Recession.


“When the banks began to fail in 2008, executives turned to Warren Buffett in a plea for last-minute funding.” In this extended interview, Buffett describes the Great Recession as an “economic Pearl Harbor.” In Behold the Dreamers, the effects of the Great Recession are seen from multiple perspectives, including those of Wall Street employees. Buffets’ account of the events surrounding the devastating crash and subsequent panic can help frame depictions of Clark Edwards after Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Urbi, Jaden. “Crisis On Wall Street: The Week That Shook The World.” Sorkin interviews Buffett on the 2008 financial crisis, By Andrew Sorkin, NBC Universal, Sept. 2018.


Behold the Dreamers’ Homepage

Jessica Jenkins, Erika Memolo, and Hunter Southall ’19

Comments are closed