WWB’s Fall Book Wise Pick: Imbolo Mbue Author of ‘Behold the Dreamers’ Visits World Wise Beauty and Inspires Dreamers Around the World

Oct 12, 2016 by

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BOOK WISE FALL PICK: Behold the Dreamers

CATEGORY: Fiction

CULTURE SPOTLIGHT: Africa/New York

AUTHOR: Imbolo Mbue

OF NOTE: Book has been optioned for film

Book Wise Pow-Wow: It’s a tough political climate right now in the United States and the immigration topic is a hotbed of conflict between both political parties. Which is why I chose this particular book for our Fall pick. The power of this story takes us out of an  ‘idealogy’ mode and grounds us in real authentic human experience.

The author’s personal story is one we don’t hear enough about in our public discourse about immigration. IMBOLO MBUE is a native of Limbe, Cameroon ( Central Africa). She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City and genuinely loves her city she calls home. Her book’s characters capture the immigrant experience in a raw and emotionally charged way, and is sure to get you thinking about the American Dream in a much wider context. At World Wise Beauty, we love books that offer worldly perspective, make us feel and think deeply, and perhaps make us just a little bit more wiser after reading. ‘Behold the Dreamers’ delivers it all and will not disappoint you. I am honored to do this interview with Imbolo and hope she is an inspiration to any young girl with a dream, but especially to the young immigrant girl or woman who has a gift and a story to share with the world…

 

 

 

Lauroly Introduction: Welcome Imbolo to World Wise Beauty. You are truly an epitome of a World Wise Beauty! Like the characters in your wonderful book you too are an immigrant and came to America from Limbe, Cameroon. Central Africa is a long way from New York and you only moved here just over ten years ago. You are not only a World Wise Beauty, but also a fine example of an immigrant achieving the American Dream! Since our readers have just been introduced to your book, I don’t want to ask too many questions that will be spoilers. I’m very interested in you and believe so many will be inspired by your story. My first question is a series of three! Did you find the America you conjured in your mind as a young girl in Cameroon? What exceeded your expectations? What disappointed you?

 

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Author. Imbolo Mbue ‘Behold the Dreamers’

Imbolo Mbue: Thank you so much for your kind words, Lauroly! World Wise Beauty is a fantastic website and I do appreciate this opportunity to talk to you. Growing up, what I knew of America was mostly based on what I saw on American-imported TV shows. These shows, like “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” and “Dallas,” generally depicted people living in material comfort, so I got the impression that there was very little poverty in America and that it was a place where with hard work, anyone could succeed. And I can’t blame this on the shows—it was just my way of analyzing the world.

My understanding of America was also shaped by people from my town who’d migrated to America and returned home to visit with very nice clothes and shoes, and an air of affluence that I attributed to the fact that people were just generally well-to-do in America. Of course, when I came here, I learned very quickly that there are millions living in poverty, and that for many in this country, immigrants included, hard work is simply not enough to live their version of the American Dream. And it’s a tough reality to swallow. That notwithstanding, I do believe this country provides tremendous opportunities to immigrants like myself, opportunities many of us would not have gotten in our homelands.

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Czech Edition of ‘Behold the Dreamers’

Lauroly Q- Did your own experience find its way into your character formations? What many reviewers are saying about your book, is you did such a great job of capturing the immigrant experience as well as a multi-dimensional depiction of the American characters in your story too. All your characters come to life and are fully humanized.

 

Imbolo Imbue: Thank you. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m an immigrant, and I’ve spent a lot of my time in this country around immigrants, so I know what it’s like to leave home and confront the challenges of building a new life in a foreign country. Like the Cameroonian main characters in the novel, Jende and Neni Jonga, I’m from Limbe, Cameroon, and I also lived in Harlem, in a similar neighborhood like where the Jongas lived. I know what it’s like to be low-income in this country and struggling to stretch that last dollar as far as you can, like the Jongas sometimes have to do. I think the challenges the Jongas faced have to do not only with being immigrants but also with being working-class, especially in a place like New York City. While the Jongas and I share a similar background, their story was, however, mostly inspired by various immigrants and working-class Americans who I had opportunities to converse with—friends and acquaintances and strangers who I found myself sitting next to in parks and bus stops, all of whom gave me a great gift by telling me their stories.

Lauroly Q– You have been working hard since you arrived in the United States. You hold a Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers and a Master’s degree from Columbia University in New York. Were you one of those lucky girls who knew you wanted to be a writer from a young age and set your sights on a writing career? Did you receive a lot of support and encouragement from your family back in Cameroon? What shaped the trajectory of your personal success story?

 

Imbolo Mbue: Oh no! I never considered being a writer as a young girl. I didn’t even know that being a writer was a career choice because I’d never met anyone who was a writer until I moved to New York City in my early 20s. I knew there were people who wrote books, because I read a lot of books, but I never thought about who these people were, and how they came about to write a book. Even after I read Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and became inspired to start writing, it wasn’t so much to become a writer as it was to just enjoy writing the same way I enjoy reading. I’d been writing for 12 years before my first short story was published and then about two years later my novel was published. So it basically took 14 years from the time I first started writing fiction to the time my first novel came out. And in that period, I wrote hundreds of pages that are still sitting my computer.

If I had a publishing goal, perhaps I would have done some things differently—maybe take a few classes or workshops—but then again, I believe it was best for me to take my time to slowly develop. “Behold the Dreamers” took five years for me to complete, from when I first got the inspiration to when I did the final correction, and I think I needed that amount of time. Excellence is every important to me. Simply completing a task is not enough—I want to look at what I’ve done and believe I did an excellent job.

 

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French Edition of “Behold The Dreamers’

 

Lauroly Q-  Wow! I am always impressed by the time many brilliant authors like you commit to their book. I’ve read your book is being optioned for a film. Who would you trust to produce and direct the film? It must be so hard to let go of your ‘baby’ and hope the story translates well to film.

 

Imbolo Mbue: Yes, the “baby” is gone! I think this “baby” now belongs to the reader, and every reader is going to have his/her own interpretation. If the book ever becomes a movie, the producers and directors will have their own interpretation, and some of their interpretation might surprise me, but I’ll be too happy seeing these characters come to life that I don’t suppose I’ll think much about it.

 

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Dutch Edition off ‘Behold The Dreamers’

Lauroly Closing: What a beautiful attitude to have about releasing your story to the readers and interpreters. Thank you so much for joining me Imbolo. I am thrilled to featured your book as WWB’s Fall ‘Book Wise’ selection and honored to have the opportunity to chat with you here. Wishing you the best with all your future endeavors and continued happiness in America..

 

Imbolo Mbue: Thank you, Lauroly. The honor is all mine!

 

 

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WWB Wise Guru Q&A: Doctor, Public Health Expert, and Author of ‘How Not to Die’ Wants You on a Diet Most Marketeers Don’t Want You to Know About…

Oct 5, 2016 by

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Lauroly Opening: I am so excited to have Dr. Michael Greger join me for a Q&A. I will share a little story. I was talking to a friend recently and we were talking about the experts that have visited World Wise Beauty. They are all pioneers, authors and experts in wellness culture. She said “my daughter said the best expert in wellness is Dr. Michael Greger, author of ‘How Not to Die’.” I said “oh yes I am trying to connect with him to do a Q&A!” Anyway, this little exchange said a lot. My friends’ kids are millennials and they really embrace health, wellness and environmental stewardship. They can see the writing on the wall with respect to both the health crisis and environment crisis in our country. The good news is, they have every opportunity to push back some of the problems and live a long healthy life. Let’s get everyone on board with Doctor Greger’s basic call to action–which is not to die of unnecessary diseases! The tag line of his book is ‘Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease.” This should be a desirable option to taking drugs, or undergoing unnecessary treatments, but somehow many haven’t been given the option. Surprised?

 

 

 

Let’s start with the sobering truth, Most doctors here in America are good at treating acute illnesses but bad at preventing chronic disease. The fifteen leading causes of death claim the lives of 1.6 million Americans annually. I think enough of us are aware of the problems, but many of us are not aware of the following simple FACT.

Nutrition and lifestyle can address many of the diseases and chronic conditions we face today.

 

 

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Dr. Michael Greger, Author of “How Not to Die’

 

Lauroly Q- Welcome Dr. Greger! So honored to have you join me. I think the best place to start is to share the following paragraph from your book and then let you tell us why we are dealing with such a health epidemic in this country. In a nutshell of course! Everyone who hasn’t read your book will definitely be reading it now.

 

“The one unifying diet found to best prevent and treat many of the chronic diseases is a whole food, plant-based diet, defined as an eating pattern that encourages the consumption of unrefined plant foods and discourages meat, dairy products, eggs and processed foods. In this book I don’t advocate for a vegetarian diet or a vegan diet. I advocate for an evidence based diet. Most doctor’s visits are for lifestyle based diseases which means they are preventable diseases.”

 

Dr. Michael Greger: Thanks for asking me to join this important conversation, Laura. Yes, that quote you shared sums up the take-home message from “How Not to Die”.

Lauroly Q- The study of epigenetics is a hot new field of study that more Americans need to understand. You mention that people eat as if they are not going to live a long life. You hear it from many people who often say, “You only live once” and sometimes even glibly “I’m gonna die anyway”. Some people think they are doomed because of the gene lottery they have inherited. But they couldn’t be more misinformed right? Tell us why epigenetics matters and how the encouraging science and research behind it matters to us all…

Dr. Michael Greger: Great question. Epigenetics is a game-changer. Basically epigenetics is the study of how our lifestyle choices and our environment impact the expression of our genes. And what does that mean? It means our moms were right! We are what we eat! Seriously. We eat junk, and this can actually change our genes, making them misbehave and cause a domino effect of bad effects, including triggering heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some types of cancer. The great news is, that even if we were dealt a lousy hand, we still have the power to use diet to reign in our genes and protect ourselves from premature disease and death.

Lauroly Q- I want to remind our readers how incredibly comprehensive your book is. You will find the ‘Why and the How’ clearly outlined for you in the book, and also receive an education on the cultural politics of food and medicine. You have a chapter called ‘Follow the Money’. Why hasn’t our society taken the proven research on reversing heart disease seriously, and why hasn’t the research crossed over to Public Policy?

Dr. Michael Greger: It’s hard for society to take this research seriously when they haven’t even been given the opportunity to hear about it. Patients don’t hear about it, because there’s no money to be made in recommending a plant-based diet. Furthermore, most doctors receive less than 5 hours of nutrition education during their entire 4 years in med school, so even when they know a plant-based diet is healthiest, they report that they feel unqualified to adequately counsel patients about plant-based eating. Given the saturation of the medical complex with big pharma and for-profit medicine, each of us, as individuals, are tasked with the responsibility of looking out for what’s best for us and our families. However, we are living in an exciting time, as doctors’ reimbursement is just starting to shift from fee-for-service to quality-based-outcomes, which means we are all going to need to learn about the impact of diet on chronic disease. Stay tuned!

Lauroly Q-  Your book covers all the chronic diseases and conditions –everything from heart disease to diabetes, to high blood pressure and various cancers. You present nutritional solutions to avoiding them and reversing them. I think the best takeaway is from an early chapter in your book, where simply put you say…”In general, the dividing line between health promoting and disease-promoting foods may be less plant versus animal sourced foods and more whole plant foods versus most everything else.” That’s pretty eye-opening…

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After everyone reads your book they will be thrilled to know you created a non-profit organization called NutritionFacts.org and its main mission is to educate us on nutrition by presenting the best science evidence based research. You won’t find a single advertiser from the pharma or dietary supplement world. It is pure information and science and there is no advertising. Hope this got everyone’s attention now! Dr. Greger, tell us more about your website and what you set out to achieve. 

 

Dr. Michael Greger: Thanks for asking about my site, NutritionFacts.org, Laura! Well, whenever there is a new drug or surgical procedure, you can be assured that you or your doctor will probably hear about it because there’s a corporate budget driving its promotion. But what about advances in the field of nutrition? The reason we don’t see ads on TV for broccoli is the same reason groundbreaking research on the power of foods and eating patterns to affect our health and longevity gets lost and buried in the medical literature–as we discussed above, there’s no profit motive. It may not make anyone money, but what if our lives would profit?

Did you know a whole-food, plant-based diet is proven to not only prevent and treat but reverse our #1 killer, heart disease, along with other deadly diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure? Yet since doctors get little if any formal nutrition training in medical school, graduating without some of the most powerful tools available to stop the chronic diseases that remain our leading causes of death and disability. The goal of NutritionFacts.org is to present you and your doctor with the results of the latest peer-reviewed nutrition and health research, presented in a way that is easy to understand.

Lauroly Closing: We have to cut through the marketing din, so more people have access to scientific, evidence based nutrition information. Your non-profit website is so valuable and needed. Thanks again for joining me Dr. Greger, and thank you for showing us exactly how we don’t have to die, of anything but old age. I would add as long as we also wear our seat belts! 😉

Dr. Greger Closing: As a public health expert, I couldn’t agree with you more about the seat belts, Laura! Actually seat belts and nutrition are similar in a way. If we speed, text while driving, and don’t wear our seat belts, we are statistically unlikely to live long healthy lives. Nutrition is the same. If we miss out on the “seat belt of nutrition” (a plant-based diet), we place ourselves in grave danger of premature death and disease. So let’s hear it for seat belts and kale!

 

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WWB WATCH: ‘Healthy’ Food in a Package? The FDA Wants Labels to Catch Up With the Real Science…

Oct 3, 2016 by

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Last year, the Food and Drug Administration told the maker of Kind bars that some of its nut-filled snacks couldn’t be labeled as “healthy.” Now the agency is rethinking what healthy means, amid evolving science on fat and sugar. Ryan Kellman/NPR

 

WWB WATCH: HEALTH FOODS & LABELS

 

Better late than never right? Nobody wants to be Debbie Downer, but I share this information because I have been a human guinea pig just like you at different times in my life. When I first became a vegetarian over 25 years ago, I experimented with all kinds of foods found in the health food store. There was no Whole Foods yet, and your local health food store was a mini-version of Whole Foods. One of the uninformed mistakes I made, but learned from pretty quickly, was embracing fruit juices and granola snack bars and believing they were healthy. I quickly discovered that many products in the health food store have ingredients that were just as worrisome ( example cane sugar vs high-fructose syrup) as other processed foods in regular supermarkets. High amounts of sugar is a problem, no matter what label is on the product and no matter what store you find it in. As I am not a nutritionist or doctor, I won’t get into it in detail here. I interview many experts in wellness, so you are sure to learn from them if you follow my blog.

Below is the excerpt from NPR, and I’m happy to see they have quoted one of WWB’s respected experts Marion Nestle. See my Q&A with her here, and follow Marion at Food Politics.

The key takeaway today is, ultimately it’s really hard to eat healthy when you are consuming packaged, processed food. I know this is pretty frustrating, because our ‘culture’ runs on fast-food living and we are constantly looking for ‘fuel’ on the go. So to be realistic, if you are going to eat a snack bar because you are starving and have to eat something, then go for it. But just know that it is not necessarily a ‘healthy’ choice. Real fruit like apples, and real nuts, can hold you over much better and also can prevent a host of diseases and chronic illnesses. Even eating a small piece of 70% dark chocolate is a better choice than some processed snacks. I bet that little tidbit lifted your spirits! Just don’t eat an entire bar in one sitting okay!

If the snack bar is your only option, then eat it, but it really shouldn’t be considered a healthy meal replacement. I’m not here to pick on snack bars. I only want to bring to light some commonsense knowledge about the food you are eating. Processed food of any kind has two big challenges. First challenge is to make it tasty to eat. How do they do that? Usually with either generous amounts of salt and sugar or ‘like’ substances. The second challenge is keeping it fresh, which involves additives and preservatives your body doesn’t necessarily need or digest well.  Again, sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but for your own health,  packaged and processed food shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet. Research from around the world has proven this and our country is just catching up with the latest research. The following story from NPR on the FDA’s updates is a good piece on why packaged foods need to update or remove their claims. As a consumer, I understand the culture I am living in. Just sell me things for what they are. Convenient yes. Treat maybe. Health Food? Not so much!

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Excerpt NPR’s The Salt

FDA Is Redefining The Term ‘Healthy’ On Food Labels

So, you’re looking for a quick grab-and-go snack, and there’s a row of energy bars at the checkout counter. Are they a healthy option?

The maker of Kind bars thinks so. The company has used the phrase “healthy and tasty” on some of its products that contain lots of nuts. But, here’s the issue: The bars contained too much fat to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s strict low-fat definition of healthy. So, as we reported last May, the company helped launch a petition to challenge the status quo.

Now the FDA has begun the process of redefining the term “healthy” on food labels. Policymakers are looking for input from food makers, health experts and the public. You can weigh in with your ideas about what factors and criteria should be used for the new definition. (Submit electronic comments directly to the FDA).

“As our understanding about nutrition has evolved, we need to make sure the definition for the ‘healthy’ labeling claim stays up to date,” writes Douglas Balentine, who directs the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

So, how has nutrition science — and the thinking about what’s healthful — evolved?

Let’s start with fat. The fat-free era has come and gone. “The most recent public health recommendations now focus on type of fat, rather than amount of fat,” Balentine writes in a blog post for the FDA.

For instance, the type of fats found in avocados and nuts are considered healthful fats. We’re encouraged to eat more plant-based fats and omega-3s from fatty fish, whereas the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats — the type of fat found in meat and other animal products — to less than 10 percent of your total daily calorie intake.

The modernized definition of “healthy” will also likely address sugar content. The FDA is taking into account all of the newer evidence linking excessive sugar intake to heart disease and obesity.

“Our thinking about sugars has changed,” Balentine told us, “so I would think the amount of sugar in products is something we [will] take into account.”

In an ideal world, people wouldn’t need labels to signal which food choices are healthful. As nutrition guru Marion Nestle of New York University, tells us, “if people want to eat healthfully, we know how to do that. That’s eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.” And she says we should eat packaged and processed foods in much smaller amounts.

“I don’t think we should have health claims [on food packages] at all,” Nestle tells us. “They’re inherently misleading,” because food companies use them as a marketing tool.

But the FDA’s Douglas Balentine pushes back, pointing out that Americans are looking for information on food packages to help them make better decisions.

“The typical consumer makes a purchase decision in three to five seconds. They don’t have a lot of time,” Balentine says. So, he says, an up-to-date “healthy” label will give people a quick way to identify better-for-you options. “We want to give consumers the best tools and information about the foods they choose.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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