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Imbolo Mbue to speak as part of President's Lecture Series

By Joe Garvey

In 1998, 17-year-old Imbolo Mbue left her native Cameroon to go to college in the United States.

"I remember whispering to myself, 'I'm going to America!'" she told Oprah Winfrey. "I'd watched a lot of American television — 'The Cosby Show,' 'Dynasty,' 'Beverly Hills 90210' — that made it all seem so glorious."

Mbue has tasted success in America, but not without struggle.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Rutgers and a master's from Columbia and landed a job as a research manager - then found herself unemployed in 2008 following the economic crash.

Her experience, however, helped inspire her novel, "Behold the Dreamers," which won the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was an Oprah's Book Club selection.

Mbue will speak as part of the President's Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Ted Constant Convocation Center, where she will be the 41st annual Literary Festival speaker. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Click here to submit your RSVP.

The University Village Bookstore will have copies of "Behold the Dreamers" available for sale at the event.

"Behold the Dreamers" focuses on an immigrant from Cameroon who lands a job as a chauffeur for a senior executive at Lehman Brothers in New York. The company's collapse forces him and his wife to struggle with a seemingly impossible choice.

"For me, personally, the financial crisis laid bare a lot about the way in which the American dream is not that accessible to everybody," Mbue told NPR.

The novel has been adapted into an opera and translated into 10 languages. It also was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

"Her writing is startlingly beautiful, thoughtful and both timely and timeless," said National Book Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson.

This year's Literary Festival will run from Oct. 21-25 and is being co-directed by Tim Seibles and Remica Bingham-Risher, who have chosen the theme, "Double Lives/Double Trouble." For a schedule of festival events, click on the following link: https://www.odu.edu/life/culture/arts/litfest.

The President's Lecture Series serves as a marketplace for ideas, featuring renowned speakers who share their knowledge, experience, opinions and accomplishments. Discussing timely topics, the series puts diversity first, showcasing authors, educators, business innovators and political figures.

Next up will be Claudia Rankine, who will be part of the NEA Big Read. She is also the President's Task Force on Inclusive Excellence speaker. Her talk is set for Feb. 21.

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