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An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar

Kleist, Reinhard (Author/Illustrator)
SelfMadeHero 2016. 152 pages
First published: 2016
ISBN: 9781910593097 (paperback)
Original language: German
Dewey: 796.42
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

conflict, multigenre, multimodal, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This graphic novel tells the inspiring and bittersweet story of 17-year-old Samia Yusuf Omar, who runs a 200-metre race at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. She comes in last, but is overjoyed. After all, it is against the odds for her to have gotten to the games at all. In her hometown of Mogadishu in Somalia, Samia has to run all the time—past bullets.

Life is unbearable under a terrorist occupation. “Sometimes, when I leave the house, I wonder if I’m going to come home in one piece. But I have to run. I don’t know how to do anything else.” Samia wants to train for the 2012 Olympics, but soldiers patrol the streets, eager to stop her “unladylike” dream of continuing as an athlete. So she goes on the run for her life. She never loses hope in her quest to reach Europe, where she can live free from terror and train as a runner. Samia becomes a refugee, and her story, like those of many others, culminates in an attempted sea crossing on an overcrowded boat.

Samia’s courageous story is told through her Facebook posts and information gleaned from interviews. Expressive black-and-white drawings bring it to life. Carefully shaded, they are full of nuanced expressions, personalities and emotions, often evoked through simple visual effects: a menacing woman’s face is represented by a black oval framed by a headscarf; the refugee boat is reduced to a single black speck in an ocean of grey as it floats into the horizon.

  •  

    Although Samia was the face of Somalia’s Olympic dream in 2008, there is little evidence of Samia’s existence left today. The graphic biography relies on sparse remnants of media posts and the work of a single journalist to recreate her journey.

  •  

    Samia’s experience can be extended to the plight of all migrants and refugees. In a small group, discuss the impact this text has on you. Why might this type of text be written?

  •  

    Read Teresa Krug’s piece “Grieving for Olympian Samia Omar” in addition to the author’s notes in the afterword. Using this and other sources, use a production process to create an expository text about the issues related to Samia’s story. Share your work with an audience of peers and adults.

  •  

    Inspired by the illustrations and the text from the front and back covers, do a quick-write prediction of Samia’s story. Share your predictions.

  •  Why does Samia want to be like Abdi Bile or Mo Farah? Who are they? What do they represent for her?
  •  Inspired by the author’s preface and using teacher-selected resources, research the refugee crisis in the world today. As a team, present your project and propose action-based solutions.
  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Physical Education and Health
  • Social Sciences