(Thomas Nelson, 2012)
A non-fiction pick by Jean-Louis
The other day I decided to change up our featured book lists on the library catalogue home page and entered a search for immigrant and refugee stories. Many interesting titles came up in this search including Lawrence Hill’s “The Illegal” which is about a refugee from the fictional island country of Zantaroland who escapes the country of his birth partly because of his talent as a marathon runner. Lopez Lomong’s book, “Running for my Life,” is not a fiction–his is a true story of running for his life.
Lopez (Joseph) was born to a loving family in Sudan and one Sunday, he and most of the children in his village were kidnapped by rebels. As he writes in the book, it is at age six that young Joseph’s childhood ends. The rebels are intent on turning the kidnapped children into soldiers to fight in their civil war. Sadly, Joseph Lomong’s story of kidnap and exile is not unique. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Joseph was yet another of the “lost boys of Sudan.”
Through a combination of good luck and determination, Joseph and his “three angels” (fellow kidnapped boys) manage to escape the rebel camp and by running and hiding, manage to make their way into Kenya. There they join other children in a United Nations refugee camp at Kakuma. Years of living in limbo in the camp, on the edge of starvation and despair would follow.
The boredom of camp life was broken by sport–especially soccer and running. Young Joseph became very adept at the sport and at one point, he and several other boys get the chance to watch the Olympic games and so hatches the dreams of competition on the world stage.
Lopez’s story continues as he is fortunate to be part of an American program to bring some of the lost Sudanese boys to the United States. In America, Lopez works hard, learns English, attends school, and continues to run. In high school and college he excels in cross country and track. Eventually he makes the US Olympic squad and in the Beijing games, he is chosen as the flag bearer for the American team.
The book is an exciting and gratifying read about one man’s journey, but it is emblematic of the passion and drive that many immigrants and refugees display if given the chance for a better life.