An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar, by Reinhard Kleist; SelfMadeHero, $22.95, 152 pages, ages 13 and up.
Today is Patriots’ Day, a holiday recognizing the brave fighters of the Revolutionary War. It is celebrated only in Maine and Massachusetts, but it is also the running of the Boston Marathon (originally called the Patriots’ Day Race). As a native of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it seems only fitting, as the race live-streams on a screen nearby, to share with you a remarkable biography about courage and dignity in the face of overwhelming odds.
Reinhard Kleist’s graphic novel An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar tells the poignant story of a Somali runner who endured challenges including civil war, religious persecution, abuse, malnutrition, and imprisonment in her bid to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Readers may remember watching Omar in the 200 meter sprint, wearing donated shoes, a baggy t-shirt and spandex. She came in last, and for awhile, her story and plight became international news. Soon enough, Omar faded from public view. In 2012, Omar was in Libya. There, she boarded an Italy-bound migrant boat, hoping to train in Italy to qualify for the 2012 London games. The boat capsized, and Omar drowned at the age of 21. Kleist’s dramatic pen-and-ink illustrations explore the challenges Omar faced and offers powerful commentary on the European response to the current refugee crisis.
Congratulations to all the runners in today’s race!