Imbolo Mbue (M.A. ’07, Psychology in Education) set a high bar for herself by authoring a first novel, Behold the Dreamers (Random House, 2016), that captured a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and a pick as an Oprah Book Club selection.

Defying fellow author F. Scott Fitzgerald's observation about there being no second acts in American life, The New York Times named her follow-up title – How Beautiful We Are (Random House) – a top ten book of 2021.

The “quietly devastating second novel” transports readers to Kosawa, a fictional African village ravaged by the environmental neglect of an American oil company.

“...What starts as a David-and-Goliath story slowly transforms into a nuanced exploration of self-interest, of what it means to want in the age of capitalism and colonialism — these machines of malicious, insatiable wanting,” read the book’s Times review.

Mbue, who spoke with the College about her first book in 2017, draws on her upbringing in Cameroon, the Central Africa republic she departed at age 17 to pursue an undergraduate degree at Rutgers University.

How Beautiful We Are moreover includes a major character who leaves Kosowa to further her education in America.

“It was an incredibly difficult book to write, because it’s very personal,” Mbue said. “How can the degradation of the environment for the sake of profit not be personal?”