When One Book, One Philadelphia asked author and Drexel University professor Harriet Levin Millan to choose ten of her undergraduate creative writing students to interview ten South Sudanese refugees for a special One Book writing project, she met Michael Majok Kuch, who became the subject of her novel. How Fast Can You Run is the inspiring true story of a young survivor whose village in South Sudan was torched in the middle of the separating him from his mother at five years old.
After trekking a thousand miles through war zones and wilderness, Michael rotated through a series of refugee camps for ten years until he was selected for political asylum in the United States in 2001. Michael continued to search for his mother upon his arrival, both on his own and with the help of several aid agencies, to no avail. His new life presented its own series of challenges, including a sexual assault accusation that put him on suspension from his college while awaiting trial. Put on a potential deportee list, Michael was afraid to contact his mother once her whereabouts were discovered until he was exonerated in court. Thanks to a fundraising campaign sponsored by a high school teacher and her son, Michael was reunited with his mother in Australia 22 years after their harrowing separation.