Mbue, he said, “comes from a place where history has been so hushed up, so killed, so destroyed, that I always marveled that she could find the craft to come together, all the time. ‘first, to tell the story. “
While working on the book, Mbue researched America’s anti-apartheid and civil rights movements, as well as the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and other political and environmental actions. Its main character, Thula, is a child, but she contains aspects of Nelson Mandela, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders, Mbue said, a nod to reports of social uprisings that ‘she would do as a girl. listen to the radio.
“I would wonder why some people get up and fight while others don’t do anything?” she said. “Do people have the right to do anything and everything that is possible for justice? How do we reconcile our desire to fight for change with our desire to protect those we love? These are questions that the characters have to face. I don’t have answers – I much prefer to ask questions. “
Yet Mbue also explores the lives of some of the oil workers in his book, including those who need work but struggle to know it is harming Kosawa. “Their wives and children were far away, waiting for money to feed themselves, praying to their ancestors to make the men as prosperous as those who had worked in the oil field decades before and returned to build brick houses,” she writes.
It was an effort to recognize that we are all complicit in modern life, she said, which reminded her on a walk in Central Park last year, when she thought about the opportunities that ‘she won as an immigrant because of what the Native Americans lost.
“You might be tempted to think that because my novel is about characters fighting a multinational corporation, it’s a good versus bad story,” Mbue said. “But what’s the point of looking at life through such a narrow lens? There are those who commit atrocities in their quest for justice and there are people who work in companies that fight for equality.
Andy Ward, who edited the book and is an editor at Random House, said he sees this nuanced perspective in his writing. “It’s important for Imbolo to inhabit his characters in their hearts and to render them with as much empathy and moral complexity as possible,” he said.