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YA Nonfiction Graphic Novel Review: Dreamer by Akim Aliu

Title: Dreamer

Author: Akim Aliu
Year published: 2023
Category: YA nonfiction graphic novel
Pages: 128 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)Nigeria, Ukraine, Russia, and Canada

SummaryThis honest, engrossing graphic memoir tells the story of professional athlete and activist Akim Aliu's incredible life as a hockey prodigy in Canada.

Akim Aliu ― also known as “Dreamer” ― is a Ukrainian-Nigerian-Canadian professional hockey player whose career took him all around the world and who experienced systemic racism at every turn. Dreamer tells Akim's incredible story, from being the only Black child in his Ukrainian community, to his family struggling to make ends meet while living in Toronto, to confronting the racist violence he often experienced both on and off the ice. This is a gut-wrenching and riveting graphic novel memoir that reminds us to never stop dreaming, and is sure to inspire young readers everywhere.

Review: I read a review of this graphic novel by Sue at Book by Book and immediately borrowed it on my Libby app. Reading a graphic novel on my phone certainly wasn't the smartest choice, but I am so glad I read this book.

I found this story powerful, interesting, and really well done. Aliu's experiences with racism from strangers, peers, and even family were painful and I am impressed with the support system he had around him in addition to his own fortitude. To have one's own grandfather reject you at first (but a couple years in come around to love and respect you) is staggering. The hatred with with Aliu was treated by hockey teammates is astonishing and even more so the lack of understanding and action on the part of the hockey system.

I am so proud of the work the author is doing to make the sport of hockey more accessible to kids of color and for working to improve the system itself. It's tough work (unfortunately) so I am glad there are people like him out there doing the work. I'm just sad that this work still needs to be done.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Literary Escapes--Ukraine
  • Nonfiction

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