Author Imbolo Mbue

Cameroon native Imbolo Mbue lost her job as a market researcher during the financial crisis, and she had a hard time finding a new one. As she walked around New York City one day, she saw chauffeurs waiting on the street for their clients. It triggered her interest, partly because some of the chauffeurs looked like they could be African immigrants and partly because it made her wonder what the relationship between the driver and the executive was like.

Photo provided by the Stark County District library

Coming to the Canton Palace Theatre on February 7

Cameroon native Imbolo Mbue lost her job as a market researcher during the financial crisis, and she had a hard time finding a new one.

As she walked around New York City one day, she saw chauffeurs waiting on the street for their clients. It triggered her interest, partly because some of the chauffeurs looked like they could be African immigrants and partly because it made her wonder what the relationship between the driver and the executive was like.

Mbue started to put her thoughts on paper in 2011. She never had taken a creative writing class and had no background in the craft. And when she submitted her manuscript to agents, she kept getting told “no.”

“It was painful to be rejected,” she said, “but I believed the story was worth telling.”

Mbue will speak from 6:30 to 8 p.m. February 7 at the Canton Palace Theatre as part of the Stark County District Library’s Dr. Audrey Lavin Speaking of Books Author Series. She will discuss her award-winning debut novel “Behold the Dreamers,” take questions and sign books. The event is free.

“Behold the Dreamers” tells the story of how the financial collapse affected the family of a Lehman Brothers investment banker and the family of his driver, Jende, who came from Cameroon to America to make a new life for himself. The stress of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy wreaks havoc not just in their professional lives but their personal lives, which have become intertwined.

Mbue said originally she focused on just the two men but then expanded into the wives and children to create a more complete picture of how the financial crisis affected their dreams for their families.

“Families have to pay a price for the things they want,” she said.

“Behold the Dreamers” earned rave reviews for its timeliness, with The Washington Post calling it “the one novel Donald Trump should read now.” It was selected for Oprah’s Book Club and won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Marianna DiGiacomo, community services director for the library district, said the author series is designed to inspire lively and sometimes challenging conversations and that the library is excited to have Mbue come speak.

“Her book touches on the very timely topic of immigration, race, class, marriage and the pursuit of the American dream,” DiGiacomo said. “She brilliantly draws the reader into the story of a young Camaroonian couple making a new life in New York and encourages readers to embrace the characters and take a walk in their shoes. Her book, characters and situations they face are insightful, relatable and hopeful.”

Event information:
About: Award-winning author Imbolo Mbue will discuss her book, “Behold the Dreamers,” followed by a Q&A and book signing. Books will be available for purchase. This is part of the Dr. Audrey Lavin Speaking of Books Author Series.

Place: Canton Palace Theatre

Time: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Admission: Free. Reservations are required and are available through the Stark County District Library. Visit starklibrary.org to register.

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass