How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue is a heartbreaking story of a fictitious African village in the 1980s where children are getting sick and dying due to toxic waste. The root of the problem is an Amercian oil company that is causing the pollution, and the struggle and sacrifice the people are willing to put themselves through to save their families is debilitating and often deadly.
One of the children, Toula, grows up and becomes a revolutionary, fightings for her people, her land and the village she loves. The story spans over many years because the villagers had no resources; they derived their power solely from the land. This story was written with no judgement on either side of the tragedy and causes you to think about the price people are willing to pay to fight for justice. Emotional, frustrating and inspiring, this book will have you experiencing feelings from helplessness to empowerment and I highly recommend it.
Imbolo Mbue began writing How Beautiful We Were 17 years ago, before her breakout novel, Behold the Dreamers. When the unfinished manuscript of How Beautiful We Were became difficult to write, Mbue was happy to metaphorically leave the african village in her drawer and be working on a story closer to home…Harlem during the financial crisis. Behold the Dreamers was published in 2016 and during that year she was inspired by Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March and collective voices speaking out. She then revisited her African village and poured her heart into this story of human nature and the fight for justice.
About Imbolo Mbue
IMBOLO MBUE is the author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. The novel has been translated into eleven languages, adapted into an opera and a stage play, and optioned for a miniseries.
Her new novel, How Beautiful We Were, is about what happened when a fictional African village decided to fight against an against American oil company that had been polluting its land for many years.
A native of Limbe, Cameroon, and a graduate of Rutgers and Columbia Universities, Mbue lives in New York.