Akim Aliu: Dreamer

­Scholastic. Feb 2023. 128p. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781338787603.
Gr 3-7–Aliu always dreamed of being able to play the game he loved, hockey, but his journey wasn’t easy. He shares stories from his life, beginning with his parents’ love story, a mixed-race relationship met with disdain and ire in the USSR in 1978. Once his family moved to Canada, his struggles didn’t end, but that’s where he found hockey. He excelled at the sport but often felt different from other players, which was made worse by the numerous instances of systemic racism he experienced on and off the ice. He was hazed, physically attacked, and called racial slurs. He never lost his love for the sport and worked hard to speak up against the abuse. He cofounded the Hockey Diversity Alliance, a non-profit organization designed to introduce hockey to Indigenous and other young players of color and, hopefully, make hockey a better place for them. This graphic memoir chronicles key points in Aliu’s life leading up to, during, and following his hockey career, jumping from the past to the present in a sometimes nonlinear way that is easy to follow. While there are a few passages that are text-heavy, they’re complemented by the dynamic illustrations that expertly capture the tone and emotions of the scenes. There are multiple instances of blood and violence that may be upsetting for some readers. Derogatory terms and profanity are mostly scratched out, but the terms are still legible.
VERDICT This gripping graphic memoir chronicling a boy’s hockey dream coupled with systemic racism is a must-purchase.

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