We celebrated the launch of Imbolo Mbue’s highly anticipated second novel How Beautiful We Were. Mbue earned wide acclaim for her debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, which was released in 2016 and won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Her new novel examines the legacy of colonialism, the desolation caused by corporate greed, and a community’s determination to hold onto its ancestral land and freedom. She was joined in conversation by David Ebershoff (The Danish Girl).
How Beautiful We Were
By Imbolo Mbue
Published by Random House
Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by a large and powerful American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a corrupt, brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back. Their struggle will last for decades and come at a steep price.
Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula who grows up to become a revolutionary, How Beautiful We Were is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold on to its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.
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. A native of Limbe, Cameroon, and a graduate of Rutgers and Columbia Universities, Imbolo Mbue lives in New York City.
Photo credit: Kiriko Sano