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.
"Gibney blesses the reader with a marvelous literary tapestry of family, sacrifice, and dreams examining the lingering effects of slavery and racism in both the U.S. and Liberia. This powerful novel demonstrates how nonlinear history can be, ways the present is a consequence of the past, and that, though traumatized people can sometimes hurt others when trying to heal themselves, there’s nevertheless strength in hope that can keep us moving forward."—Booklist, starred
"[H]ighlights the inconsistencies between the beliefs a country projects to the world at large and the realities experienced by immigrants.... An excellent choice."—SLJ, starred
"With riveting, lyrical prose, Gibney’s accomplished novel explores universal themes of home, family, power struggles, and endurance while demonstrating the liberating power of storytelling.—Publishers Weekly, starred