"Many people have heard of Africa's Lost Boys, but none tell their story quite so well as Harriet Levin Millan in this elegantly written book. As inspirational as it is lustrous." --Reader's Digest
"Generosity and justice prevail in the storytelling...an unforgettable individual portrait of all too impersonal war." --The Rumpus
"Heartbreaking and hopeful in equal measure." --Consequence Magazine
"The circuitous journey in How Fast Can you Run is like a story that never ends." --Frederick News Post
"A book like How Fast Can You Run is an eye-opening experience, awakening empathy for a much wider world." --prickofthespindle.org
"For Majok, committing to a future in the US feels like giving up on the prospect of resuming life with his family in Sudan. The novel brilliantly conveys how he carries the cumulative weight of his experiences, sometimes feeling most exhausted by it in quiet moments. Healing is not a straight trajectory, but a winding path through surprising places." --The Iowa Review
"Harriet Levin Millan has transformed the story of one"lost boy" into an early, grittily told, highly affecting novel. With a poet's piercing eye, attuned ear, and faculty for recognizing resonant moments, Millan has written an emotionally rich-veined, dramatically moving and ultimately triumphant story. I emerged from this ingenious, fast-paced novel with the sensation of having been taken along by its protagonist on a poignant, heart-pounding journey, enlarged and changed."--Okey Ndibe, author of Foreign Gods, Inc.
"The refugee is the hero of our time, a champion of human survival and freedom. At this hour, millions of anonymous men, women and children are fleeing brutal dictatorial regimes, drug cartels, environmental devastation and hopeless poverty. They press up against our fences. With sensitivity, passion and grave reportorial insight, Harriet Levin Millan tells the story of a single refugee, the indomitable Michael Majok Kuch, and she gives song to them all."--Ken Kalfus, National Book Award finalist, author of Coup De Foudre
"The un-imaginable journey of Sudanese refugee Michael Majok Kuch becomes an epic tale through the telling. Genre busting, this part memoir, part bildungsroman, part adventure tale and part heart-felt family reunion avoids the pitfalls of many of its predecessors. Full characterization from Sudan to Philadelphia, exacting detail from beginning to end, clearly visualized African landscapes in all their complexity; there are no broad brush strokes of civil war, refugee plight and immigration here. A fuller story than How Fast Can You Run cannot have been told of the tragic events of war in Sudan that uproot the young boy from the Dinka plains of Southern Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp to Nairobi and Philadelphia and how he has to fight a different kind of war in America from which he emerges victorious. Epic." --Billy Kahora, Editor, Kwani
"In How Fast Can You Run, Harriet Levin Millan tells the story of one boy's search for a mother's love through almost unimaginable pain and suffering...Millan, who met Michael Majok Kuch when her creative writing class interviewed Sudanese immigrants, brilliantly renders the contours of Dinka life and refugee life as well as the internal life of a young refugee tormented by the loss of his family and childhood. Congratulations to Millan. How Fast Can You Run is a marvelous achievement." --Deborah Scroggins, author of Emma's War: A True Story of Love and Death in Sudan
"The poetry of pain and trauma leaps off the page as we follow the extraordinary journey of Michael Majok Kuch from a lost boy to a developing adolescent finding his way. A powerful meditation on love, loss and triumph of survival. A stunning achievement not to be missed."-- Elizabeth L.Silver, author of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
From the Author
It wasn't until I was studying poetry at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop in the 1980s, that I considered my own family worth writing about. Up until then they were distinctly uninteresting people--loud and unconventional, in distinctly boring ways, rooted in a depression-era ethos that seemed only oppressive.
But at Iowa my teachers assigned heavy doses of the confessional poets, in particular Robert Lowell, who wrote almost exclusively about his family. Although they were WASP Boston Brahmins and radically different from any people I knew, after reading about them I began using his lens.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My novel, based on the true story of a South Sudanese refugee, is about to come out. I believe that my family examination laid the groundwork for me to invent characters based on other real people. It gave me the tools to draw out connections as I immersed myself in the South Sudanese community.
And this week, when I watched the Olympic Refugee team enter the stadium on opening night in Rio, I was overwhelmed. Some of the athletes had lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp, the same hot, dry land that was home to Michael, on whom my protagonist is based.
All people, all families come from somewhere.