Cover image for The glitter-dust
The glitter-dust
Dwyer-Joyce, Alice.
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New York : St. Martin's Press, [1978]

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John "Leeds" Kipligat is a 17-year-old Kenyan emigre living with his parents in a bleak Vancouver housing project. At the urging of his best friend, a fellow Kenyan named Kulvinder Sharma, he tries out for a local track club. Their goal: to run fast enough to get scholarships to American universities, and escape poverty, problems at home, and the neighborhood. For Leeds, running reminds him of the life in Kenya that he and his family were forced to flee, its only palpable legacy the deterioration of his parents' marriage, his mother's worsening health, and his own newly discovered self-destructive tendencies. Kipligat's Chance plunges us into the world of competitive running, and the enormous mental and physical demands of becoming a world-class athlete. Running as sport, running as escape: the lines quickly blur for Leeds and his friends. In Leeds, Odhiambo has created a protagonist whose humor and courage are utterly compelling. With a keen ear for language, and dialogue that is pungent and gritty, Kipligat's Chance is a startling novel, harsh and powerful, from an emerging writer.

Author Notes

David Nandi Odhiambo was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1965 and moved to Canada in 1977. A graduate of McGill University, Odhiambo worked as a care giver for runaways. His play, Afrocentric, has been produced in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. His first novel, diss/ed banded nation , was published only in Canada by Polestar Press. Kipligat's Chance is his American debut. He currently lives in Massachusetts, where he attended the University of Massachusetts and recently received his MFA in creative writing.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

John "Leeds" Kipligat, the 17-year-old Kenyan ?migr? narrator of Odhiambo's earnest but awkward second novel (after diss/ed banded nation), would love a way out of his blighted Vancouver housing project. Along with his best friend Kulvinder, "the Punjabi equivalent of Shaft," Leeds joins the Achilles Track Club, where, coached by aphoristic, beer-bellied ex-Olympian Sam Holt, he tries to earn an athletic scholarship to a U.S. college. He also navigates the churning waters of adolescence girls, school, fights with parents ("Why can't they leave me alone?") familiar territory that, coupled with the slangy casualness of the prose ("School is a real downer. This being the day I'm in and out of science labs"), can give the story a YA feel. In brief flashbacks, we learn about the comfortable (and corruption-supported) life that the Kipligats lived in Kenya, and of a revered older brother, Koech, an activist and a promising runner himself, whose absence (he mysteriously disappeared amid violent political upheaval) haunts the story and drives Leeds toward his goal. This briskly paced story offers an energetic sincerity and sympathetic characters, but the dialogue can feel wooden, dramatization is often neglected in favor of summary, and serious issues including poverty and self-mutilation are paid only perfunctory attention. This is a slightly undercooked novel, but its writer shows promise. Agent, Tom Wallace. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved