Literature

Get to Know the Cameroonian Author Behind a Million-Dollar Book Deal

Imbolo Mbue first captured our attention when she inked an exceptional million-dollar deal with Penguin Random House in 2014 for her eagerly awaited debut work 'Behold the Dreamers.'

Cameroonian-American novelist Imbolo Mbue joins ranks with authors Chimamanda Adichie of Americanah, Yaa Gyasi of Homegoing and Igoni Barrett of Blackass creating a new canon of African literature.


Mbue first captured our attention when she inked an exceptional million-dollar deal with Penguin Random House in 2014 for her eagerly awaited debut work Behold the Dreamers, released in March, that tells the story of a Cameroonian couple and their son who settle in Harlem hoping to capture their piece of the American dream amidst the 2008 financial and housing market crisis.

The ‘90s music and tennis-lover, who flashes her winning “million-dollar smile” in Glamour magazine's September issue, tells Essence magazine  her big idea arrived while she was taking a stroll through NYC's Columbus Circle in the spring of 2011 when she noticed chauffeurs waiting for executives in front of the Time Warner building.

Photo credit: Kiriko Sano

“I started thinking about the relationship between the chauffeurs and the executives and the ways in which the recession might have affected the men and their families,” Mbue says.

That moment in time would inform the main conflict of protagonist Jende Jonga whose job as a chauffeur for a Lehman Brothers executive along with his ability to provide for his family becomes threatened when the financial services firm implodes, and difficult decisions must be made.

Inspired by Toni Morrison’s book Song of Solomon, and the Heinemann African Writers Series and British classics that she read growing up, Mbue began the hard work of fiction-writing at 21-years-old. In the case of Behold the Dreamers, which she began writing after that pivotal flash of genius in 2011, Mbue decided it best to write about what she knows best—the Cameroonian immigrant experience. The 35-year-old author, herself, hails from Limbe, resides in NYC with her husband and children, and has lived in the U.S. for more than a decade.

“I wrote about people like myself—Americans, non-Americans, people pursuing dreams, people questioning which direction they should go with their lives, immigrants in search of a better life, people striving to get out of poverty, get an education, and so on. In many ways I see myself in the characters even though it’s not my life story,” she shares.

And of course, no come up story is complete without rejection, and Mbue has had her fair share of it, shopping Behold the Dreamers around.

“I kept on rewriting the book and resubmitting to agents, including Susan Golomb, who was one of my dream agents," she explains. "It was a long ride, and in the Summer of 2014, Susan Golomb agreed to represent me. A few months later, she sold the book."

Mbue’s success along with those of her contemporaries signals the world is finally ready to embrace a new generation of African and diasporic authors who own their personal truths and deftly weave it into their storytelling. We can’t wait for what lies ahead for her.

Music
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

B3nchMarQ and the Art of Making Something From Nothing

B3nchMarQ's EP consists of great songs that don't require much from the listener—but it bangs.

There's nothing groundbreaking about South African rap duo B3nchMarQ's debut release ASPEN EP. But one indisputable fact is that it bangs.

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Music
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Nasty C and French Montana Hit the Club In the Video for ‘Allow’

Watch the video to Nasty C and French Montana's new collaboration.

South African rapper Nasty C just released the visuals to "Allow," his collaboration with French Montana. The song is featured on Bad Hair Extensions, the re-release of Bad Hair, the Durban-born rapper's debut album.

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Video
Courtesy of Jojo Abot.

Let Jojo Abot's New Afrofuturistic Video Hypnotize You

The Ghanaian artist releases the new video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," an entirely iPhone-recorded track.

Jojo Abot is rounding out a strong year which has seen her tour South Africa, release the NGIWUNKULUNKULU EP and work with institutions like the New Museum, Red Bull Sound Select and MoMA on her art and performances.

Jojo is now sharing her latest music video for "Nye VeVe SeSe," a song featured on her iPhone-only production project, Diary Of A Traveler.

"Nye Veve Sese is an invitation to let go of the burden of pain and suffering that keeps us from becoming our best and greatest selves," a statement from Jojo's team reads. "Asking the question of why pain is pleasurable to both the one in pain and the source of the pain. Often time the two being one and the same."

Watch her new "meditative piece," which was shot in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, below.

Jojo Abot will be playing her final US show of the year in New York City alongside Oshun on October 26 at Nublu 151. Grab your tickets here.

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