Beginning with a Liberian immigrant family in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota in 2008, Shannon Gibney’s Dream Country zig zags through time and space, telling stories from Liberian colonization and civil war to African American and Liberian American present day. Each segment focuses on an individual within a family, showing not only the individual struggle but also the inextricably linked family dynamic. The individual story segments bring to life the historical settings and events, from Liberian colonization to civil war to diaspora.
Dream Country, the publisher says, is a young adult novel. Don’t let that fool you: Shannon Gibney respects her audience too much to write down to them or to soften the emotional and historical facts in any way. Her audience may include young adults, but this is a novel for all adults, as intense and troubling as any novel on the various book award and best seller lists.
For me, Angel’s words sum up how the five separated but interrelated family stories come together and why this book tastes like life:
“The truth is fluid and fungible and untrustworthy and won’t abide by any one telling. And sometimes, in inventing truth, we can discover something deeper. We can find our place in the story, because that, at least, is one thing that we can make for ourselves. A story.”