“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


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.

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