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.

Style
Photos by David Pattinson.

First Look: This New Collection from Art Comes First Is Peak Black Yeehaw Aesthetic

The design and brand consultant duo previews the SS20 collection displayed during their residency at The Mandrake Hotel in Paris.

Following their wavy Surf Afrika collection, Art Comes First (ACF) shares with us a preview of their SS20 collection that is all things Black Yeehaw Aesthetic.

Dubbed El Charro Negro, the collection features neutral colors and an array of textures—from leather, embroidery, fringed denim and ponchos, to vests, suede jackets and straight flyness.

Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh of ACF are known as the "Travelling Tailors" where their ventures around the world influence their designs. This time the nomads, who hail from the West Indies, Ghana and Angola respectively, have landed in Paris.

Earlier this month, ACF curated a week-long event-filled residency at The Mandrake Hotel in Paris that encapsulates their ethos of taking cultural influence from around the world and only staying still long enough to create. There, Lambert and Maidoh presented an installation, live musical performances and DJ sets, a film screening and a pop-up shop leading up to Fashion Week. The residency also showcased the duo's latest collaboration with London mainstay Fred Perry.

El Charro Negro will still be showcased in Paris at another location from June 18 to 23. Keep up with ACF on Instagram to stay tuned for details.

Check out our favorite images from the collection below.

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Nonso Amadi & Kwesi Arthur's 'Comfortable' Will Get You In Weekend Mode

Watch the trippy new music video for this link-up from the buzzing Nigerian and Ghanaian artists.

Nonso Amadi is one of the standout acts from a young wave of Nigerian musicians blending afro-fusion with RnB and much more. He's now dropping the brand new single "Comfortable," an addictive self-produced track that sees him linking up with bubbling Ghanaian act Kwesi Arthur, which we're premiering below today.

"Comfortable" is built on woozy synth keys and sparse beat work, all spearheaded by Nonso Amadi's vocals about wanting freedom in a relationship.

"The song is inspired by experiences with having a girl over and not wanting them to get too comfortable by staying too long with you," says Nonso Amadi. "I thought it'll be interesting to create a song around this 'cos it's not a perspective were used to hearing from guys very often."

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Screenshot via YouTube.

Maleek Berry Makes a Statement with His First Track of the Year, 'Flashy'

And the music video follows suit.

After months of anticipation, Maleek Berry finally dropped his first track of the year, "Flashy."

The Nigerian crooner-producer surely makes a statement on the track while flexing his rapping skills, as he chronicles how he leveled up to be flashy—and it's well-deserved. The video shows us a scene of a fly photo shoot that's underway, where Maleek is dripping in gold and fancy cars surrounded by stunning black women and his homies—Eugy, Tinie Tempah, Juls and more.

Watch the video, directed by Capone and Guise of Vissionaire Pictures, below.

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