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BLOG TOUR Review: Dream Country by Shannon Gibney

September 13, 2018
Shannon Gibeney, Dream Country, Blog Tour , InToriLex
Shannon Gibney, Dream Country, InToriLex
Published By: Dutton Books for Young Readers on September 11, 2018
Format Read: ARC Edition (337 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Historical Fiction/ Own Voices
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Blog Tour/ Publisher
Rating: FOUR STARS
Dream Country
~Amazon~
Dream Country begins in suburban Minneapolis at the moment when seventeen-year-old Kollie Flomo begins to crack under the strain of his life as a Liberian refugee. He's exhausted by being at once too black and not black enough for his African American peers and worn down by the expectations of his own Liberian family and community. When his frustration finally spills into violence and his parents send him back to Monrovia to reform school, the story shifts. Like Kollie, readers travel back to Liberia, but also back in time, to the early twentieth century and the point of view of Togar Somah, an eighteen-year-old indigenous Liberian on the run from government militias that would force him to work the plantations of the Congo people, descendants of the African American slaves who colonized Liberia almost a century earlier. When Togar's section draws to a shocking close, the novel jumps again, back to America in 1827, to the children of Yasmine Wright, who leave a Virginia plantation with their mother for Liberia, where they're promised freedom and a chance at self-determination by the American Colonization Society. The Wrights begin their section by fleeing the whip and by its close, they are then the ones who wield it. With each new section, the novel uncovers fresh hope and resonating heartbreak, all based on historical fact.

In Dream Country, Shannon Gibney spins a riveting tale of the nightmarish spiral of death and exile connecting America and Africa, and of how one determined young dreamer tries to break free and gain control of her destiny.

VERDICT:

 Content Warning: Rape, Substance Abuse, Graphic Violence, Sexually Explicit Language

REVIEW:

This is a unflinching look at the many ways Liberia is tied to African American history. I only knew little about Liberian history and the African American colony there started by slaves, before reading this book. This book follows a family throughout time and across continents who have survived American slavery, Liberian Civil War and immigrating to America to start over. The changing point of views stood out as distinct and interesting voices.The whole story is non linear and lacks clear paths or conclusions. It uses intimate details and relationships to give you an abstract way of looking at history through fictionalized events.
 "This is what the demons tech us to survive to become two people at once. To hide ourselves in plain sight . What kind of sick learning is this?"
Kollie is a recent Liberian immigrant struggling to fit in with African Americans in high school, unable to connect with peers who bully and make fun of his culture. Togar is a indigenous Liberian who is forced to leave his home and family after his village is raided by Congo people who steal indigenous men and force them into labor. Yasmine is a young mother who sets out with her four children to Liberia to escape the horrors of slavery and build a new country with a better future for her children. Ujay is a Liberian University student trying to support revolution in a divided country.  The horrors and heartbreak throughout their stories was shocking but something I felt was the only way to convey the true tragedy of Liberian history.
"If words were the only tools at your disposal to make sense of a lineage in two countries that never seemed to align or intersect in ways that made you feel like anything but a perpetual foreigner in either place , you too would have spent the last three years in a small room behind a computer screen, desperately punching out a invented history."
The story and characters are great but segments of the book were a bit too drawn out and slow paced. There is a segment at the back of the book listing major events in Liberian history. I suggest reading that first  to make sense of some of the glossed over details about Liberia throughout the book.  I emotionally connected with and learned a lot from these characters. This story will make you reflect on family race and identity in memorable and important ways. 

Recommended for Readers who
- enjoy family sagas spanning continents and generations
- want to learn more about Liberian History and the African American colony built by ex-slaves
- can digest serious topics and tragedy told in a straight forward way
**I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.**

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

InToriLex, Shannon Gibney
Shannon Gibney is an author and university professor. Her novel See No Color, drawn from her life as a transracial adoptee, won the Minnesota Book Award and was hailed by Kirkus as "an exceptionally accomplished debut" and by Publishers Weekly as "an unflinching look at the complexities of racial identity." Her essay "Fear of a Black Mother" appears in the anthology A Good Time for the Truth. She lives with her two Liberian-American children in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 
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