Author: Giuseppe Catozella / Reviewer: Ellie George
Synopsis: (Faber & Faber, 2016) Samia Omar grows up in war-torn Somalia determined to be a world-class sprinter. She sleeps with a photo of Mo Farah by her bed, trains hard despite the violence and prejudice around her, and makes the national team competing at the Beijing Olympics. But with the war encroaching on their family, her sister is forced to make the treacherous journey to Europe by boat. Samia, scared for her safety and for her dreams, decides to join her, which means putting her life in the hands of traffickers…
Review: Little Warrior is an international bestseller that won the Premio Strega Giovani Prize in Italy and for good reason. Based on a true story, I won’t lie, read with a box of tissues nearby. In a time where the world is challenged by war, violence, and injustice, this story focuses its attention on family, hope, and dreams. That’s my take-away anyway.
The story is based on true events and the narrative opens in 1999 when Samia and her best friend, Ali, are eight years’ old. Set in Mogadishu, you experience Samia’s world from her perspective.
Somalia is a war-torn country, a country she adores and wants to liberate. The author deftly weaves into the narrative the issues Samia and her family face, the violence, the poverty, the way in which the civil war affects family and friends.
But the pearl of the story is set against this chaotic and bleak setting – Samia’s fearless and brave journey to compete in the Olympics. On one occasion, when Samia acquires her first taste of freedom her visceral reaction is to:
“Turn around, get back on the bus, and return home to my natural setting, where freedom was measured by counting land mines and mortar rounds.”
A hard image to shake.
Samia’s spiritedness, her warrior attitude to achieve her dream of running in the Olympics, is what captivates the reader. The clarity of her self-knowledge – even as a young girl Samia knew her path.
“It made me think that I certainly didn’t want to get married; each day I was more and more convinced that the only thing I really wanted to be wed to were a tartan track with no holes and a good pair of running shoes with cleats.”
Her determination in the pursuit of hope and freedom to run sets her on a journey and it isn’t until she sets off as an exiled refugee that the reader witnesses this irrepressible drive and resilience against a horrifying set of experiences.
You should want to read this story not because it’s well-written—although it is that—but read it for the hope it projects, for the way it can empower you.
In this increasing challenging world, we often forget to be brave and fearless. We can definitely learn a thing or two on how to be brave from the Little Warrior.
Little Warrior is Giuseppe Catozella’s third novel. Connect with the publisher, Allen & Unwin – here
Ellie George freelances as a wedding coordinator and works for the Queensland Writers Centre.
After a 12-year travel stint travelling Europe, she has returned home to Brisbane.
Ellie co-translated Antonis Antoniadi’s ‘Necronomicon: The Manuscript of the Dead’ from the Greek language, which was published in 2015 last year. She is currently working on her first novel.