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How Beautiful We Were: A Novel
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Random House Publishing Group 2021
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Description
A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers.
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, People ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, The Christian Science Monitor, Marie Claire, Ms. magazine, BookPage, Kirkus Reviews
“Mbue reaches for the moon and, by the novel’s end, has it firmly held in her hand.”—NPR


We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. 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.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
03/09/2021
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780593132432
ASIN:
B07XN8W4BC
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Imbolo Mbue. (2021). How Beautiful We Were: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Imbolo Mbue. 2021. How Beautiful We Were: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Imbolo Mbue, How Beautiful We Were: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group, 2021.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Imbolo Mbue. How Beautiful We Were: A Novel. Random House Publishing Group, 2021.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Imbolo Mbue is the author of the New York Times bestseller Behold the Dreamers, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Blue Metropolis Words to Change Prize and was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. Named a notable book of the year by The New York Times and The Washington Post and a best book of the year by close to a dozen publications, the novel has been translated into eleven languages, adapted into an opera and a stage play, and optioned for a movie. A native of Limbe, Cameroon, and a graduate of Rutgers and Columbia Universities, Mbue lives in New York City.
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title
How Beautiful We Were
fullDescription
A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers.
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, People ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, The Christian Science Monitor, Marie Claire, Ms. magazine, BookPage, Kirkus Reviews
“Mbue reaches for the moon and, by the novel’s end, has it firmly held in her hand.”—NPR


We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of cleanup and financial reparations to the villagers are made—and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interests. 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.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        April 1, 2020

        Set in Kosawa, a rural village in an unnamed African country, this second novel by Mbue (after Behold the Dreamers) opens in 1980 at an assembly where the locals address their grievances to Pexton, the American oil company whose drilling has been poisoning their land and water, killing their children, and destroying their way of life. After decades of inaction and broken promises by Pexton, the only one willing to speak truth to power in this topsy-turvy world is the village madman, who kidnaps the company representatives, setting in motion years-long cycles of hope and despair. The novel moves between a first-person plural (a "we" consisting of the children of the village) and narration by a village girl named Thula and her various relatives. With the assistance of an aid organization, the highly independent and intelligent Thula is sent to college in New York, where she becomes an eager student of revolutionary movements. VERDICT In this persuasive novel, Thula is a powerful if ultimately doomed heroine, and Mbue makes it clear that Goliath will always defeat David in a postcolonial society ruled by greed, corruption, and untrammeled capitalism.--Lauren Gilbert, Ctr. for Jewish History, New York

        Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        May 1, 2020
        Deep in Africa, the village of Kosawa bears the curse of oil. The oldest among the residents remember when the scent of the village became the smell of crude. The drumbeat of capitalism, as personified by an American oil company, has steadily contaminated the region's natural resources to the point where the children are falling sick and dying. Mbue (Behold the Dreamers, 2016) paints a gripping and nuanced picture of resistance as the town takes on Big Oil through successive generations of its promising citizens. Thula, a young woman who has witnessed nothing but the steady environmental degradation of her village throughout her young life, spearheads the later versions of the fight for justice. The book's narrative device, a chorus of voices, sometimes stalls the linear march of the story as each narrator tells a similar tale of difficult circumstances, barely pushing the plot forward. This reflectiveness emphasizes the universal ring to the villagers' epic battle, and the outcomes are tragically familiar. Mbue's novel offers proof that capitalism is just colonialism masquerading as a different avatar.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        November 9, 2020
        Mbue follows up her PEN/Faulkner-winning Behold the Dreamers with a stirring, decades-spanning portrait of an African village striking back against environmental exploitation. In the 1980s in the fictional village of Kosawa, children are dying, poisoned by American oil company Pexton’s leaking pipelines. One small act of sabotage—a villager steals a couple of Pexton representatives’ car keys—spurs Kosawa’s residents to kidnap their corrupt village headman and the two oilmen whose keys were stolen, and triggers a chain reaction of tiny revolutions that reverberate for generations through transatlantic radicalization and violence in Kosawa, told through the fortunes and failures of Thula Nangi and her family. Thula’s father, Malabo Nangi, vanished in the capital petitioning for government intervention; her uncle Bongo is spurred to seek foreign aid after Malabo disappears; and Thula becomes a charismatic revolutionary. With a kaleidoscope of perspectives, Mbue lyrically charts a culture in the midst of change, and poses ethical questions about the resisters’ complex set of motives. While a series of repeated reminiscences from various characters and explicit moral lessons stall the momentum, Mbue’s portrayal of Kosawa’s disintegration is nevertheless heartbreaking. This ruminative environmental justice elegy fills a broad canvas, but falls just short of being a masterpiece. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from March 15, 2020
        The author of the award-winning debut Behold the Dreamers (2016) follows up with a decades-spanning account of environmental calamity and its reverberating, often violent impact on a fictional African village. The year 1980 finds Pexton, an American oil giant, in the midst of a yearslong project that by slow degrees is choking the life out of Kosawa, many of whose villagers have already perished "from the poison in the water and the poison in the air and the poisoned food growing from the land that lost its purity the day Pexton came drilling." Whatever efforts the villagers make to seek relief or repairs have been met with relative indifference by the company and brutal reprisals from their nation's dictatorship. But in October of that year, a Pexton delegation that had come to Kosawa to placate its desperate citizenry is taken captive by the village madman, Konga, whose reckless gesture is joined by others who believe their dire circumstances leave them no choice but to fight back. So begins a long, valiant, and costly struggle between this tiny farm village and the seemingly overpowering forces both within and outside its country poised to curtail or ignore its grievances. Mbue tells her story from several perspectives and displays deep and detailed empathy toward men and women of various ages, however they may feel about the bloodshed, imprisonment, thwarted hopes, and pervasive fear that dominate the village for the remaining years of the 20th century. At some point, the concerns of these and other villagers coalesce around Thula, an avid and intelligent 10-year-old girl when the Pexton spokesmen are kidnapped, who later goes to America to become educated about the wider world, though she vows to return to Kosawa someday. When she does, she is intent on setting in motion a plan to "bring down" the country's despotic regime. Meanwhile, the land becomes less habitable, Pexton's promises of reparations come to little, and Thula's patience with legal remedies erodes further. Among the many virtues of Mbue's novel is the way it uses an ecological nightmare to frame a vivid and stirring picture of human beings' asserting their value to the world, whether the world cares about them or not. A fierce, up-to-the-minute novel that makes you sad enough to grieve and angry enough to fight back.

        COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers.
ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, People ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, The Christian Science Monitor, Marie Claire, Ms. magazine, BookPage, Kirkus Reviews
“Mbue reaches for the moon and, by the novel’s end, has it firmly held in her hand.”—NPR


We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel, How Beautiful We Were. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline...
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Random House Publishing Group
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      • description: Fiction / African American & Black / General