“NOW IS THE TIME FOR RUNNING,” by Michael Williams, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, July 5, 2011, $17.99 (young adult)
In 2008, author Michael Williams saw a photograph of a man burning to death during xenophobic (intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries) attacks in South Africa. What if people knew what happened to the man before coming to South Africa, he wondered, and set out on a journey to find out about refugees and how they came to be in his country.
While working at a soup kitchen in Cape Town, Michael met three young men from Zimbabwe. He spent several hours interviewing the young men, and what they told him became the inspiration for his book “Now is the Time for Running.”
Deo and his friends love playing soccer, and Deo’s older brother, Innocent, loves to watch. It’s a routine that’s played out on a regular basis, but there’s nothing routine about this day.
While in the middle of play, soldiers arrive, and Deo and Innocent are forced to run away from their village. Suddenly, the two are alone in the world. With the help of a family friend, the two set out for a safe haven — South Africa. Along the way, the kindness of strangers comes as a welcome surprise. But they also feel the sting of prejudice and poverty.
Innocent is like his name, Innocent of the world around him. He may be older, but his mental capacity is much younger. His simple view of things makes things twice as difficult for Deo.
Through it all, Deo has soccer, but is it enough to give him the hope he so desperately needs?
“Now is the Time for Running” stays with readers for a long time. It conjures feelings of thankfulness and empathy for those who have suffered and still are suffering from horrible atrocities.
In many ways “Now is the Time for Running” feels like a journal, giving readers an intimate look into Deo’s world. The things Deo and his brother experience are hard to read, but the book as a whole is ultimately rewarding.