Happy Wednesday! Today, I am super excited to be part of the blog tour for this stunning book, Dream Country! This incredible own voices book was released yesterday, and is so, so worth the read! Be sure to stop by An Existence Transcribed and Alohamora Open a Book for their reviews. Tomorrow In Tori Lex is posting her review and on Friday stop by The Baroness of Books for not only her review but also some character fun!
“You all think you hate one another precisely because we don’t about this stuff.” She sighed. “You done realize it yet, but that is the real tragedy. Not a name somebody got called.”
Dream Country is a beautiful journey of one family, woven throughout a tapestry of generations, struggling with what freedom means to each of them. Told through five perspectives spanning from the early 1800’s to the present, we see the common threads of dreams, identity, and hope in each of their stories. This is a journey of a family, but it is also a journey through history, both real and imagined. It is a story of culture and how it evolves through generations. It is a story of countries, and how these larger struggles impact individuals living within them.
Each section is important to the rest, showing that we are never fully immune to the conflicts of the past. They scar us in ways that are sometimes both visible and invisible. Each generation building on the lessons and nightmares of the one before it. Dream Country is an examination of how our past can haunt our present, and how one dreamer is determined to understand these threads in order to seize control of her present and her future.
“Time passes, oceans are crossed; circumstances change, or they do not. One continent is exchanged for another, but still the spiral does not become a circle. No, spirals rise and they fall. Sometimes it’s hard to know which.”
Dream Country is not just a story of a family’s history. Or of a culture, or a country. It is a vivid portrayal of what racism looks like, feels like, but more profoundly, how it stems. How it can grow from one group to another, hate breeding hate, in new ways, with new generations wreaking pain and heartache on the next. This is a heartbreaking but real story. One which helps understand not only the pain of our past, but the difficulties in our present.
This incredible journey forces the reader to examine some of the lesser known truths of history. Dream Country is a “fictional canvas of fact”, where historical fact is woven into the story. Knowing that there is legitimate history written into these characters and their struggles makes the atrocities we encounter impossible to ignore. This isn’t a fictionalized story where once you close the cover, the story leaves the reader. Instead, this will awaken the need to know more, to think more, to understand more.
“The truth is fluid and fungible and untrustworthy and won’t abide by any one telling. And sometimes, in inventing the truth, we can discover something deeper. We can find our place in the story.”
Dream Country is a beautifully written story, that is compelling and stunning. It is deep and profound, and will open a dialogue for young readers everywhere. This book is perfect to help teens who perhaps have faced their own struggles with identity, and fitting in. With wanting to understand their own generational histories and where these lives of the past fit in with their future.
This book is perfect for book clubs, classrooms, and everything in between. There is some language, along with difficult subject matter such as colonization, slavery, violence, and references to rape, though outside of language, there aren’t any graphic descriptions. I would recommend to mature young adult readers, or at least with a parent or teacher available to help guide the reader through deeper discovery of these difficult themes and subjects.
In short, this book is stunning. It is a shining example of why we need diverse books with diverse characters, along with more own voices authors. This is a complex story bringing to light pieces of our own history that are lesser known. It is valuable, informative, and incredibly, incredibly important. Highly, highly, recommend!
Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for including me on this incredible tour, and for sending me a copy for review!
Be sure to pick up Dream Country from your favorite retailers today!
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.
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. www.shannongibney.com and @gibneyshannon