"there has only ever been one perfect man, the Lord Jesus, and we killed him. I only missed a putt."
In my dreams, I dance
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Anne Wafula Strike, Harper True, 2010. ISBN 978-0-OO-735428-3Anne Wafula Strike was born a normal, healthy girl in a Kenyan village. Before her second birthday she had polio and never recovered the use of her legs. The book is the story of how she battled adversity to graduate from university and become a teacher, get married and compete in the 2004 Paralympics.
She suffered prejudice and seemingly insurmountable obstacles but was always encouraged by her father, “You are a strong girl, Anne, and I know that somehow you will overcome all of this. I didn’t give you the middle name Olympia for nothing. I know that despite your polio you will still how the world how strong and powerful you are.” (Page 15)
The book title reflects her own dreams. “I’m never disabled in my dreams. I am physically perfect, the way I was when I was born. In my dreams I dance. (Page 89)
She writes with honestly and good humour. Of the moment when the plaster was taken off her legs but was replaced by callipers and crutches, she “had simply exchanged one prison for another”. She writes about her desire to have a boy friend and how her disability was always a barrier. She writes poignantly “But the happiest times were those when I didn’t feel disabled”. (Page 107)
At school, she found sports day was one of the few times that she felt inadequate. She was envious of the girls who sprinted effortlessly across the field. She tried to imagine “legs that worked perfectly, the way God had designed them, and to have them carrying my body fast across the earth”. (Page 89) It was only years later that she discovered para-sports.
Her experience of her first visit to England is hilarious:
Good: roads, running water, piped gas and the NHS system
Bad: The weather, food.
Biggest surprise: “I couldn’t believe that you could buy meals that had already been cooked, vegetables that had already been chopped and rice that had already been picked clean of stones. The concept of frozen meat surprised me. I wondered how long ago the animals had been killed”.
Shock: “The British people had brought Christianity to Africa and used religion to govern Kenya. Yet here it seemed that a very small percentage believed in the God they had introduced to us”.
Towards the end of the book, we read of her discovery of disability sport for the first time., her joy in competing for Kenya and then Britain and her desire to make the 2012 Paralympics
Throughout her story we see courage in the face of adversity behind which there is a constant sense of God watching over her. A moving story. An excellent read.