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Look for "Mirror" by 23-year-old Minneapolitan Sam Karpeh - Coming Soon to Amazon

Article by Claudia Kittock

I met Sam at YouthLink. He is tall and muscular and can have a fierce visage, but when Sam smiles his entire being changes. I bring homemade chocolate chip cookies every week, and Sam said, “Give me one.” When I told him “no”, he asked why he couldn’t. I told him to ask me nicely. He immediately smiled that wonderful Sam smile and asked if he could PLEASE have a cookie. I gave him two and he followed that by asking “What’s wrong with you?” When I quit laughing I told him there were too many things to start a list.  Sam really couldn’t understand why I was interested in him. I have never been able to understand anyone who isn’t fascinated with Sam and his story. When I look at Sam, I see a highly intelligent young man with a kind, gentle, and fierce soul with that amazing smile.

Sam KarpehThe story of Sam Karpeh is a fascinating one, filled with twists and turns, sadness and ultimate triumph. In fact, if you read this as a fictional story, you might find it difficult to believe. However, it is true, and Sam has written a book about his life, entitled Mirror, Mirror. At 23, it seems difficult to imagine enough life to warrant an entire book. You would be wrong.

Sam and his father migrated to America from Liberia when Sam was very young. Liberia was in the midst of a civil war, and Sam doesn’t remember very much about Liberia, and has always considered himself an American kid. His mother didn’t come with them, and because he was so young, Sam was never sure if she was alive or had died.

His early life was chaotic, and by the time Sam was 13 he was no longer living at home. He spent time at friends’ homes and attending school, interspersed with some time not going at all. Sam eventually ended up at an alternative school, and one day after school, another student asked if he wanted to ‘come over’. Sam did, met his parents, and that very night was asked if he wanted to stay with them until high school ended.  He lived there for 4 months and graduated at the top of his class and gave the valedictory address.

While in high school, an English teacher took a special interest in Sam and wouldn’t let him give up on himself or on his education. She urged him to write his story and to keep working on what he had to say. Sam will never forget her, nor her belief in him. He found writing to be a powerful outlet.

Sam spent two years living with a cousin in Fargo after he finished high school. He worked full time and spent time trying to decide what would come next in his life. After a nearly fatal stabbing, Sam decided he needed to come home to Minneapolis. 

In 2013, Sam again survived a nearly fatal accident, having fallen asleep while driving home from work. He was driving nearly 80 mph, hit a tree, and was able to climb out the window, relatively unscathed.

Sam and I met each other at YouthLink and shortly after we met, I asked him to be part of the very first class of the Mill City Players. I had no idea if he would show up, but show up he did. The second night Sam showed up I told him how pleased I was he was there again. He turned to me with a slightly puzzled look on his face and said simply, “I promised you I would.”

Sam is an incredibly talented actor, writer, poet, and leader. When Sam speaks, people listen. At one production, Sam read Charles Bukowski’s poem, There’s a Bluebird in my Heart. The poem begins, "There is a bluebird in my heart, but I’m too angry to let it out." It was a powerful moment of theater, and an even more powerful moment for Sam and the audience who heard him.

Sam has had a piece of my heart since I met him. My day is always better when I get to see Sam and talk with him. I am in awe of his strength. I know I would not have survived what this amazing young man has survived. Sam has survived and somehow has found a way to use that early chaos to become this incredible man.

Sam is an aspiring chef. He has worked at a number of restaurants and now works at Green + The Grain. A measure of this man is how valued he is there. His employer is nudging Sam toward culinary jobs with more creativity as he sees the potential in Sam that is so apparent.

Sam’s book Mirror, Mirror is available on Amazon. As he tells me, it's only the first part of his story. I can’t wait to read more about this remarkable man who occupies such an important part of my heart. Knowing Sam has changed me and I am so grateful for our friendship.

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About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).


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