Imbolo Mbue Talks Classism, Trump, and Discovering Her Passion for Writing at Old Dominion University

Courtesy of Old Dominion University
Posted Oct 2018
Written by Noell Saunders

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Acclaimed novelist Imbolo Mbue impressed a packed crowd at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center, recounting her incredible journey from leaving her native Cameroon to attending an Ivy League university and becoming a best-selling author.

Her 2016 novel, "Behold the Dreamers," won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club. The novel focuses on a young couple from Cameroon trying to make a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. The novel addresses marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trap doors on the path to the American dream.

Mbue spoke at Old Dominion as part of the President's Lecture Series and annual Literary Festival.

Like her characters, Mbue was a young immigrant who struggled in her pursuit of the American dream. Long before moving to America and becoming a writer, she told the crowd, she was a little girl living in Cameroon with an unwavering curiosity.

"I was a child living a double life," she said. "I was carefree and relaxed on the outside but raging inside with a need to make sense of the world."

Mbue recalled her oceanfront hometown as a happy place where children obeyed their parents, the young obeyed the elderly, but classism was rampant, which she found perplexing. Keep Reading!