BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Dream Country by Shannon Gibney [in Booklist]

Undoubtedly, Bahni Turpin is one of few narrators able to convincingly crisscross the gender spectrum with consistent agility. Here she begins as untethered Kollie, a Liberian immigrant teen in 2008, alternately dismissed and provoked by both white and African American peers at his Minnesota high school, until rage, violence, and drugs cause him to be exiled to Monrovia by parents desperate to reverse his dangerous behavior.

Turpin then assumes the voice of teenage Togar, already a husband and father in 1926 Liberia, made frantic by merciless Congo soldiers threatening enslavement. The narrative then jumps again, to 1827 Norfolk, Virginia, when Turpin embodies Yasmin, a young African American mother determined that she and her children will live in freedom in Liberia, with both devastating and empowering results.

The final two sections – revealing Kollie’s parents’ Liberian past, his sister’s future stateside – unravel the scattered generations; Turpin empathically underscores the familial connections. Listeners should not disregard Shannon Gibney’s ending author’s note, a context-rich bonus.

Review: “Media,” Booklist, February 1, 2019

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2018


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