One of the first books from Colin Kaepernick’s new publishing collaboration with Scholastic is DREAMER by Akim Aliu. Aliu is a mixed-race hockey player who hails from Ukraine and emigrated to Canada. Read on for a deep dive into DREAMER by Akim Aliu and Greg Anderson Elysée, and illustrated by Karen De la Vega.
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DREAMER is a graphic novel memoir by Akim Aliu a Black man who pursued hockey as a career. Aliu’s story begins with his parent’s meeting and falling in love in Ukraine. As an interracial couple, they faced racism and bigotry from the community and even from Aliu’s maternal grandfather. After emigrating to Canada, Aliu falls in love with hockey but when he begins to play faces racism from the most unlikely places- his teammates.
Despite Aliu’s hard work ethic and skill playing hockey, that didn’t matter to the sociopaths he came across like a former player who knocked out his teeth with a hockey stick or a head coach in the NHL that repeatedly used the n-word towards him. Aliu perseveres but ultimately speaks out about his experiences in Canada shined a bright light on the disgusting way people of color are treated in the league.
One fascinating aspect of DREAMER is the story of Aliu’s parents which would be an excellent stand-alone book in itself! Aliu is the son of a Ukrainian woman and an African man, who chose to be together despite the bigotry they experienced even before they were married. Aliu notes that even his maternal grandfather refused to acknowledge his brother Edward until the baby was placed on his lap and he had that familial connection to his grandson that he couldn’t ignore.
DREAMER is an enthralling memoir, one that looks at both the highs and lows of playing hockey as a person of color. Aliu is unflinching in describing the racism he experienced even calling out two former NHL people, a coach and a player for using the most disgusting terms toward him. It’s important to bear witness to his story as there are still Black players in the NHL that face these types of ignorance every game whether it be fellow players or fans.
One interesting thing to mention is the racism that Aliu experiences is consistent no matter what country he lives or plays in showing that the prevalence of bigotry isn’t solely in the United States. Most countries have adopted bigotry towards Black people despite not participating in the slave trade.
The art is well done in DREAMER showing the progression of Aliu through his childhood to adulthood with consistent coloring. I did like that any curse words or the n-word is shown scratched out but readers will get the gist that whatever words hurled toward Aliu are hurtful.
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