“Very much alive and very much under threat”: Chasing the Coffee-Flavored American Dream in Dave Eggers’s Monk of Mokha

Raluca Andreescu 1
  • 1 University of Bucharest, Romania

Abstract

This essay examines the manner in which Dave Eggers’s recent work of literary nonfiction, The Monk of Mokha (2018), sets out to amplify the voices of the marginalized by chronicling the adventures of a young Yemeni-American in search of the best coffee in the world. This takes the protagonist from the infamous neighborhood of his birth in San Francisco, “a valley of desperation in a city of towering wealth,” to his trials and tribulations in the war-torn homeland of Yemen. I will argue that the narrative, which blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction and combines history, politics, biography and thriller, highlights the American entrepreneurial zeal and contagious exuberance which still feed the immigrant American Dream and proves that social mobility in the United States is still attainable, sometimes as a result of chasing the world’s most dangerous cup of coffee. Moreover, I argue that the protagonist’s endeavor can be read within the larger context of contemporary political consumption as an example of social justice activism and ethics-driven buying.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Aljamra, Helal. “Coffee: The Lost Treasure of Yemen.” Inside Arabia 22 Oct. 2018. Web. 15 Aug. 2019.

  • Anonymous. Rev. of The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams. World Affairs 95.2 (1932): 131. Web. 20 Aug. 2019.

  • Barnett, Clive, Paul Cloke, Nick Clarke, and Alice Malpass. Globalizing Responsibility: The Political Rationalities of Ethical Consumption. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Print.

  • Brown, Keith R. Buying into Fair Trade: Culture, Morality, and Consumption. New York: NY UP, 2013. Print.

  • Cainkar, Louise. “For Yemenis Fleeing War, the U.S. Muslim Ban Means a High Price and Dangerous Wait.” Religion and Politics 15 Oct. 2019. Web. 20 Oct. 2019.

  • Cohen, Lizabeth. A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America. New York: Vintage, 2003. Print.

  • Cullen, Jim. The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation. Oxford: OUP, 2003. Print.

  • Eggers, Dave. The Monk of Mokha. New York: Penguin, 2018. Print.

  • Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. 1791. Hazleton: Pennsylvania State U, 1998. Print.

  • Greenblatt, Leah. “Dave Eggers’ Monk of Mokha is part immigrant tale, part coffee tutorial and totally great: EW review.” EW 29 Jan. 2018. Web. 20 June 2019.

  • Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed the World. New York: Basic, 2010. Print.

  • Shaw, Randy. The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime, and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco. San Francisco: Urban Reality P, 2015. Print.

  • Tai, Hina. “Dave Eggers’ The Monk of Mokha: A Portal into America’s Love Affair With Qahwa.” The Islamic Monthly 30 Jan. 2018. Web. 15 Aug. 2019.

  • Taylor, Jessica. “Trump Calls For ‘Total And Complete Shutdown Of Muslims Entering’ U.S.” NPR 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2019.

  • “Yemen Crisis: Why Is There a War?” BBC 21 Mar. 2019. 10 Aug. 2019.

  • Weinberg, Bennett Alan, and Bonnie K. Bealer. The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug. New York: Routledge, 2002. Print.

OPEN ACCESS

Journal + Issues

Search