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Dream Country
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Dream Country
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The heartbreaking story of five generations of young people from a single African-and-American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom."Gut wrenching and incredible."— Sabaa Tahir #1 New York...
The heartbreaking story of five generations of young people from a single African-and-American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom."Gut wrenching and incredible."— Sabaa Tahir #1 New York...
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  • The heartbreaking story of five generations of young people from a single African-and-American family pursuing an elusive dream of freedom.
    "Gut wrenching and incredible."— Sabaa Tahir #1 New York Times bestselling author of An Ember in the Ashes
    "This novel is a remarkable achievement."—Kelly Barnhill, New York Times bestselling author and Newbery medalist
    "Beautifully epic."—Ibi Zoboi, author American Street and National Book Award finalist
    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.

Excerpts-

  • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

    Copyright © 2018 Shannon Gibney

    For me, the rupture was the story. —Saidiya Hartman

    Let an ocean divide the white man from the man of color. —Thomas Jefferson

    Part I:

    CHAPTER ONE

    2008, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

    KOLLIE FLOMO WAS DONE. All he wanted was a moment's peace and quiet.

    "Fucking motherfuckers. No fucking culture-menh." He echoed his mother's words under his breath as he wiped the spit from the back of his neck. He searched the hallway for the spitter—probably the same person who'd cough shouted, "Jungle nigger." When he saw no obvious culprit, he gave up, walked into geometry, and found his place beside Abraham. His younger sister, Angel, sat in the back of the room, her textbook already open to the appropriate chapter, her pencil resting on a blank notebook page. Kollie grimaced. It was annoying to be in the same class, but they had a tacit agreement to ignore each other. So far, she was holding up her end of the bargain, scanning the room with a bored look on her face, pretending not to see him.

    "Ya hello," he said to Abraham absently.

    "Good morning, Comrade," Abraham replied, far too brightly. "You exactly seven minutes late-oh."

    The two of them had lived three houses down from each other since the sixth grade. Some days, though, Kollie wondered if he even liked Abraham.

    "Six. I had to urinate oh," Kollie said. He took out his phone. No new texts. He threw his book on the table and then slouched down in his chair.

    At the front of the room, Mrs. Walker turned around from the blackboard, startled by the noise. Kollie knew that she wouldn't do anything. She smiled at him nervously. Kollie nodded at her, then pulled his ball cap down over his eyes, how he liked it. She faced the blackboard again and continued writing some theorem that was basically illegible to him and probably made perfect sense to Fake-Ass Angel. He didn't know why he even bothered with this class. His daddy was buying him a basement club in Crystal, where he and his friends could spin the latest tracks for their friends and relatives, and make plenty of cash. He could almost hear Big Boi's dope lyrics skipping over the beat like a stone across cracked sidewalk.

    "Sonja say she finished with Clark now," whispered Abraham, his pencil diligently moving across the paper.

    Kollie pretended not to care, but his palms began to sweat. "Eh?"

    Sonja was the flyest girl in school, and she was into both black and African guys, which was pretty rare for a black girl. Kollie had heard that her father was Kenyan.

    "Definitely," whispered Abraham.

    There was something about Sonja—maybe the way she smelled like clean soap, or the way her medium-sized, perky breasts peeked out of her T-shirts, or maybe even her loud laugh—but Kollie had a huge crush on her. He had been trying to get up the nerve to talk to her for weeks, but she always seemed to be surrounded by so many people. His own girlfriend, Lovie, was always around, too.

    "Yes," said Abraham. "You should get her-oh. That big jue not be free for long now."

    "Just like that?"

    Abraham looked at him sideways. "Just like that, Comrade. Why not?"

    Kollie thought about it for a moment: Why not? He grimaced. For starters, Clark, Sonja's now ex-boyfriend, had recently beat the shit out of Hassan Mohammed, who had four inches and thirty pounds on Kollie.

    Why y'all jungle animals here, anyway? (Hassan wiped the blood from his nose with the back of his hand while Clark stared down at him.) Minnesota's too...

Reviews-

  • School Library Journal

    August 1, 2018

    Gr 9 Up-The author's sophomore novel follows the disjointed immigration patterns experienced in one African family. Kollie Flomo is a young teen struggling to connect his American and Liberian identities. His apathetic performance in school and the bullying he experiences from his African American classmates exposes an explosive anger he can barely control. After a school skirmish leads to a public shaming of the family, Kollie's father sends him back to Liberia in an effort to reform him. Kollie's ancestor Togar's experience with immigration is completely involuntary. Slavers partnered with other Africans in a bid to supply plantations with free labor. His attempts to evade the slavers infecting his country result in a net loss of identity and family. Togar's great granddaughter Yasmine is a free African American woman in slavery-riddled America. She decides to take a gamble on a repatriation scheme orchestrated by white men that promises a better life for her children. This story that highlights the inconsistencies between the beliefs a country projects to the world at large and the realities experienced by immigrants. The African and American characters in this story are hoodwinked multiple times by their adopted and birth countries. The disconnect between a dream fulfilled and a dream diminished by reality negatively impacts the characters' view of themselves and their place within their chosen countries. The importance of giving immigrants power to create their own story is wonderfully illustrated in this book. VERDICT An excellent choice for both public and school libraries.-Desiree Thomas, Worthington Library, OH

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2018
    Gibney (See No Color, 2015) skillfully navigates centuries of colonial violence, emphasizing the importance of privileging impact over intention in historical texts.A comprehensive, but not entirely cohesive, timeline introduces a family beginning in 1827 at a plantation in Virginia. The story moves through the brutal colonization of Liberia, detailed further in the backmatter, by Europeans alongside white Americans and freed or escaped black slaves and ends with the prescient voice of Angel, a "black-African-queer" woman in present-day Minnesota. Gibney creates clear voices for her characters, most strikingly with 16-year-old Kollie, a Liberian refugee whose experience at his high school explores a microcosm of real discord between African-Americans and immigrants or refugees from myriad African countries living in the U.S. The naming of specific tribes in what became Liberia, and the inclusion of traditional proverbs alongside quotations from African-American writers, further spotlights the complicated, ever intertwined existences of black people all over the world. A nuanced focus on Liberia through the perspective of this one family, five generations described in five parts, therefore becomes a moving and melancholic metaphor for the struggle for place and home experienced by those still trapped by the legacy of the triangle of trans-Atlantic trade.A necessary reckoning of tensions within the African diaspora--an introduction to its brokenness and a place to start healing. (author's note, further resources, timeline) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 1, 2018
    This expansive tale, composed of interwoven stories, features members of a family tree that spans five generations and two continents, united in their sense of displacement and longing for a homeland where they can thrive. Alternating between the United States and Liberia, Gibney (See No Color) captures moments of wrenching decision-making in her characters’ lives. The opening story, set in 2008 in a Minnesota community roiled by ethnic tensions between Liberians and African-Americans, features drug-dealing teenager Kollie, whose parents return him to Liberia to learn to “be a good boy there again.” In the second story, set in 1926 Liberia, 18-year-old Togor flees brutal Congo soldiers. The third story follows Yasmin and her family as they move from 1827 Norfolk, Va., to Monrovia, Liberia, to escape slavery and establish a home. The final stories circle back to Kollie’s immediate family—concluding with a chapter devoted to his queer younger sister, Angel, in 2018 Minneapolis. 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. Ages 14–up.

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