Tragic story of a Somali Olympian
Don't Tell Me You're Afraid by Giuseppe Catozella is a heartbreaking novel based on the true story of Samia Yusuf Omar who was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1991, ran in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and died in the Mediterranean Sea in April 2012 during a horrific journey trying to reach the London Olympics. The story starts in 1999 when Samia and her friend Ali were 8 years old. Ali realized that Samia was a faster runner and decided to be her coach. When Samia was 10 years old, she won a city-wide race. She never had decent shoes, nutrition, nor training, but eventually her running attracted the attention of the small Somali national Olympics committee, and she was one of two Somalis to go to Beijing. Samia lived in poverty but had a loving family with her father (aabe) and mother (hooyo) and was especially close to her older sister Hodan who loved to sing. The situation in war-torn Somalia went from bad to worse. Aabe was caught in crossfire and lost a foot and later was killed by Al-Shabaab. After the Beijing Olympics, Samia was able to make it to Ethiopia for training, but without any official papers, she was an undocumented immigrant and a non-entity. Finally in July 2011, Samia decided to take the "Journey"—going across Africa to reach Europe. This is the most harrowing part of the book. Samia, as an undocumented immigrant, was at the mercy of human traffickers who treated her and the other immigrants like animals or cargo. They suffered terribly from heat, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, and lack of any facilities as they were packed into vehicles and transported across the desert and then boarded onto a barely seaworthy boat. Moving, tragic, powerful story that packs an emotional punch.