How Beautiful We Were

By Imbolo Mbue,

Book cover of How Beautiful We Were

Book description

A PEN/FAULKNER AWARD FINALIST

'Sweeping and quietly devastating' New York Times
'A David and Goliath story for our times' O, the Oprah Magazine

Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, this is the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company.…


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Why read it?

4 authors picked How Beautiful We Were as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

What does environmental racism look like? Read How Beautiful We Were by Imobolo Mbue for a vital, searing answer. An American oil company is destroying the land and water of the fictional village of Kosawa. Children are dying. The company does this because they can, spouting only empty words about restitution. The novel narrates the village’s fight back, using alternating points of view to electric, pulsing effect.

From Sari's list on by African women.

The Cameroonian-American author Imbolo Mbue writes about an oil-rich African nation that avails itself to corruption and ecological disaster when it welcomes an American petrochemical company to conduct business freely. The novel focusses on one village and an often futile attempts to resist, with one young woman rising to international fame—but it also tells the too common story of how corporations succeed in bending an entire people to their will with wickedly false promises

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. Told from multiple perspectives, it explores how 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.

I love how this book is largely told in first-person plural, the “we.” It models for all of us how the climate crisis will require all of us to…

Non-Western countries already carry a vastly disproportionate share of the burdens of climate change, and Mbue’s novel is among the first and best to tackle this reality head-on. Set in the fictional village of Kosawa in an unnamed country in West Africa, the story follows the villagers in their attempt to fight back against the Big Oil company that has poisoned their water, land, and children’s bodies. Over decades, we follow the village children as they grow up and make complicated choices about their own futures and that of their homeland. This is a thoughtful, clear-eyed, and richly nuanced story…

From Sandra's list on climate change that pull no punches.

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