How Beautiful We Were

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How Beautiful We Were Publisher: Penguin Random House Narrators: Prentice Onayemi, Janina Edwards, Dion Graham, JD Jackson, Allyson Johnson, Lisa Pitts

From the celebrated author of the New York Times best seller Behold the Dreamers comes a sweeping, wrenching story about the collision of a small African village and an American oil company.

“A novel with the richness and power of a great contemporary fable, and a heroine for our time.” (Sigrid Nunez, author of The Friend, winner of the National Book Award)

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.

Brooklyn Sound Lab recorded Dion Graham’s portion of this book.

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