In a time of great political division, many citizens feel as though we live in two different Americas. In the first of these two Americas, success is possible for anyone who works hard enough. In the second, upward mobility is nearly impossible. Okey Ndibe’s, Foreign Gods Inc., explores the latter. The novel focuses on the story of Ike (pronounced EE-KAY), a Nigerian immigrant struggling to make a space for himself in America.
Ndibe carefully constructs a situation in which Ike should, theoretically, thrive. Ike is intelligent, graduating from his college with honors. He is hard working. Above all else, he is ambitious and willing to do anything it takes for financial capital.
This is, theoretically, the recipe for American success. However, through Ike, Ndibe reveals the flaws in the “American Dream.” Despite Ike’s talents, he is unable to find a well-paying job or the status he desires because of his Nigerian accent, his ethnic identity and his culture. Ike is presented as a fertile seed growing in an unwelcoming environment, a reality that many people of color and immigrants can relate to. Ultimately, readers will see in Ike’s story the ways in which the American Dream is not an opportunity available to everyone.
The rest of the novel records Ike’s attempts to fulfill the American dream through less moral, Gatsbian means, agreeing to steal a prominent cultural and religious artifact from his homeland to sell to wealthy, American buyers. Readers will find themselves pulled in by the stakes of the novel, knowing that Ike is not only selling an artifact from his home for a place alongside the American elite but a piece of his own identity. Ndibe’s novel Foreign Gods Inc is a question posed to both Ike and the reader.
How much does a dollar really cost?