#Okay100Women

IMBOLO MBUE

OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrates African women who are making waves, shattering ceilings, and uplifting their communities.

Cameroonian-American author, Imbolo Mbue, joins this list of extraordinary women with her literary masterpiece, Behold the Dreamers. Mbue’s tale thrives in a day and age where African novelists, who weave tales on migration, are at the helm of modern literature. It further proves the point that there is no limit to stories that come from Africa and its diaspora. This particular story is centered on Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem who serves as a driver for a wealthy Lehman Brothers executive. It is a juxtaposition of the life of poor immigrants versus that of wealthy white Americans.




The story is Imbolo’s story; when she writes, she is an immigrant from Limbe, Cameroon, pursuing her dreams and seeking happiness despite economic distress. She, much like her character, faces the challenge of accepting and understanding what it means to be black and working class in American society.



When asked to describe what his village back home is like, Jende states:

Everyone wants to come to America, sir. Everyone. To be in this country, sir. To live in this country. Ah! It is the greatest thing in the world…my country is no good. It is nothing like America. I stay in my country, I would have become nothing. I would have remained nothing. My son will grow up and remain poor like me, just like I was poor like my father. But in America, sir? I can become something. I can even become a respectable man. My son can be a respectable man.

He equates coming to America to becoming something and someone. Readers are presented with the idea that many Africans living on the African continent have, that America is a place that gives hope to the hopeless and a place where dreams come true.



It is critical to note Imbolo is a woman. One look at her life and the way she chooses to create her characters and this fact jumps out at you. She is a woman who beat the odds. She was born in extreme poverty to a single mom in Cameroon and ended up in America to study at both Rutgers for her Bachelor’s and Columbia for her Master’s. She worked in marketing until the 2008 financial crisis that brought on the loss of her job. She juggled mothering her first child and writing this work; she merged conflicting desires doing so. She affirmed the point that is often disregarded; being a woman is multi-faceted.



A dissection of this book leads one to examine Neni, Jende’s wife. The character was both inspired by the women the author grew up with in her hometown as well as immigrant women in the United States. Neni is characterized by her ambition and yearning to grasp all the opportunities presented to her in this country. She balances motherhood and her dreams of pursuing a career in pharmacy. When Jende loses his strength to carry on, Neni becomes fiercely independent. Furthermore, where Neni is strong, Cindy Edwards, wife of Clark, Lehman executive, battles depression and alcoholism as she deals with a troubled marriage. She sits in the Upper East Side or the Hamptons and laments. Neni tends to Cindy’s physical and emotional needs. There’s a distinct relationship between the two women. Cindy so confides in Neni it begins to take an emotional toll on her. Throughout the book, the two attempt to comprehend their roles as both women and wives.



We are most moved by Mbue’s many identities. She is black. She is a woman. She is African. She is Cameroonian. She is an immigrant. Her story beautifully celebrates all of these identities and solidifies her place as one of our 100 women.



-AL

popular
Photo Courtesy of Uzo Aduba

100 Women: Uzo Aduba Wants to Use Her Roles to Give a Voice to the Voiceless

We talk to the Emmy-winning standout of Orange is the New Black on how to be good, just as you are.

As a child Uzoamaka Aduba was insecure about a great many things. Her name and the now-famous gap in her teeth were among the number. "My mom would try to impress upon me constantly, 'Don't you know that in Nigeria, a gap is a sign of beauty? It's a sign of intelligence.' I'm like, 'We don't live in Nigeria, mom. We live in Medfield, Massachusetts.'" Thirty-seven-year-old Aduba is quite the opposite—dramatically, if you will. Currently chatting from a mountainside village in Mendoza, Argentina, she exudes total self-possession, and is crystal clear on not just her beauty and her talent, but on what she stands for ("Equality for all. Full stop.") and even her privilege.

"Whatever I think is hard is nowhere near what hard is. First solid lesson. Anything that I considered to be difficult, I don't have to reach that far back into my history and to my community stories to know what hard really looked like," the Nigerian-American actress states in a definitive tone. "Hard is moving to a country where you know no one and have five children. Hard is surviving a civil war. Hard is surviving polio. Hard is learning how to blend into a new culture without losing your own. You understand? Me figuring out which of the seven pairs of jeans I want to wear today is not hard."

Keep reading...
OkayAfrica's 100 Women

Yvonne Orji and Luvvie Ajayi Welcome OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2018 Honorees

Join two of last year's 100 Women honorees in celebrating 2018 list of trailblazing African women.

OkayAfrica has officially launched our annual 100 Women list to honor the many contributions of African women globally.

Last year's inaugural list featured a group of groundbreaking African woman who continue to shape culture and expand representation, and this year is no different.

Two of the women from our 2017 list, Nigerian actor, writer and comedian Yvonne Orji and her fellow Naija sister—writer, speaker and social critic Luvvie Ajayi—took the time out to share a special message of encouragement to the new honorees.

Keep reading...
popular
Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading...
popular

University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.