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Alpha by Bessora
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Alpha (2014)

by Bessora, Barroux (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (13)  Spanish (1)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
ALPHA: Abidjan to Paris by Bessora is a heart-wrenching graphic novel tracing a migrant’s experience from Africa to Europe.

The stark, simple illustrations and informal typography reflect the painful plight of a West African refugee struggling to reach Paris. In hopes of connecting with his wife and child, this poor cabinetmaker sells everything and navigates the underworld of fake passports, refugee camps, and smugglers in hopes of a better life. The author’s first-person perspective places readers at the center of this troubling, yet realistic story.

Librarians will find young adults drawn to this powerful graphic novel. Use the book as an opportunity to talk with youth about the work of Amnesty International. Connect readers to works of nonfiction and websites focusing on the challenges of the migrant crisis.

Published by Bellevue Literary Press. ARC courtesy of the publisher and LibraryThing Early Reviewers. ( )
  eduscapes | Aug 30, 2018 |
For the second time this week, I find myself feeling bad about not really liking a graphic novel centered on a very timely and important subject. Last time it was the Syrian Civil War in Freedom Hospital: A Syrian Story, this time it is the African refugee crisis.

This book does have a harrowing tale to tell of how Alpha makes his way from Cote d'Ivoire across the Sahara Desert to the coast of Morocco where he hopes to cross the sea to Spain and eventually Paris. The whole way he searches for traces of his wife and child who made the same journey a short while before him. He makes allies among his fellow refugees, trying to build a group of people he can trust in a world populated by those who would take advantage or endanger him or, worst of all, send him back to the land he fled.

Unfortunately, I had major problems with the execution of this graphic novel. Starting with the fact, that it is not so much a graphic novel as an illustrated story or a slight variation on a children's picture book. Most pages consist of two rectangular panels, each with a large block of text below.

The pictures are a pretty ugly mix of what looks like magic markers and watercolors. The color palette mostly ranges from black to gray, with occasional pops of color on people's clothes. Noses tend to be black blobs in the centers of faces that are either white or washed in gray, which sort of gives a lot of the characters the appearance of rather creepy circus clowns.

And the narrator speaks in a really awkward way throughout the book with lots of sentence fragments or short simplistic sentences. I cannot tell if this technique is supposed to represent a lack of intellect/education, a struggle to speak in a language that is not native to him, or a really bad job on the part of the translator.

Finally, the story seems to arbitrarily stop in the middle of the quest (short of Paris, despite the subtitle), with a single page of "epilogue" serving as a hasty outline of the rest of the story that the creators seemed too lazy or pressed for time to tell in full.

Oh, and to be really petty, a helpful map of the area in question was buried at the back of the book instead of being placed at the front where it would have been more useful.

I admire the aim of this book, but the end product was a chore to finish and left me feeling cheated or tricked. ( )
  villemezbrown | Aug 11, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This graphic novel made up of simple felt-tip drawings follows Alpha Coulibaly as he attempts to migrate from Côte d’Ivoire to France. Alpha's wife and child left earlier to live with a sister-in-law in Paris, and he's not heard from since. The dream of reunion carries Alpha for 18 months as he travels in crowded vehicles across hot deserts, lives and works in refugee camps, and sees the suffering and deaths of the companions he meets along the way, including a child traveling unaccompanied. It's a heartbreaking yet matter-of-fact story of what far too many people encounter as refugees today. ( )
1 vote Othemts | May 30, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Alpha, a cabinet maker from Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast, is forced to leave his country. He sent his wife and son north, a few months earlier, to try a new life, in Paris, France.
Alpha begins to make his way north, using the dangerous services of traffickers, drug-dealers and other criminals, to cross border after African border, sometimes stopping for months, to earn enough money, to resume his trek to Morocco and beyond.
This is another strong, immigrant/migrant story, done in illustrated form, showing the hardships and hazards of making these perilous journeys, hoping for a brighter future, in a different locale. The artwork is simple, but perfectly executed. ( )
  msf59 | May 28, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Alpha: Abidjan to Paris" is an Early Reviewer book. This graphic novel's title character is a cabinet maker in the Ivory Coast who takes on a refugee trip to try to find his wife and young son, who have left their poverty for Paris, hoping to join the wife's sister who has a beauty salon there. (The Ivory Coast, Cote d'Ivoire, also is the setting of the very good "Aya" graphic novels by Marguerite Abouet).

After his efforts to get a tourist visa get nowhere in the maze of reluctant bureaucracy, he determines to join others traveling there illegally. This GN movingly and troublingly conveys the danger and physical stress in such a journey, which requires money and (sometimes taken advantage of) trust at every juncture.

With others like a woman who prostitutes herself to get the money, and a young boy whose sister begs Alpha to take him from their poverty, Alpha travels from Abidjan to Mali to Algeria to Morocco, closer and closer to his intended destination, staying in refugee camps along the way. He thinks of himself as "an adventurer". A man who travels with him carries his family's hopes that he will play for Barcelona's football (soccer) team, but he must take this illegal, visa-less route to try to get there.

What particularly fuels the story is the desperation and determination of the travelers, who all are simply trying to find better lives for themselves. In keeping with books like the novel [Go, Went, Gone], this gives the reader a picture of what illegal immigrants suffer through, what drives them, and what obstacles are brought to bear to keep them out. The art adds to the accessibility of the story. For those who want to know more about the refugee experience, this is a good one to read. ( )
2 vote jnwelch | May 4, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bessoraprimary authorall editionscalculated
BarrouxIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ardizzone, SarahTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I imagine Europe is beautiful, but very cold too.
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Book description
Alpha Coulibaly sets off from his home in Côte d’Ivoire, bound for Paris, where his sister-in-law has a hair salon near the Gare du Nord. Alpha’s wife Patience and son Badian left for Paris months ago, travelling without visas, and he has heard nothing from them since. He carries their photograph close to his heart as he crosses the continent and meets other ‘adventurers’ seeking a better life.

Alpha is emblematic of the refugee crisis today – just one of millions on the move, at the mercy of people traffickers, endlessly frustrated, endangered and exploited as he attempts to rejoin his family, already in Europe. With a visa, Alpha’s journey would take a matter of hours; without one he is adrift for eighteen months. Along the way he meets an unforgettable cast of characters, each one giving another human face to the crisis. The book is presented in graphic novel format, with artwork created in cheap felt-tip pen and wash, materials Alpha himself might be able to access.

Supported by Amnesty International, Institut Francais and English PEN.
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"Determined to reunite with his family, Alpha sets off from his home in Cote d'Ivoire, bound for Paris, where his sister-in-law has a hair salon near the Gare du Nord train station. Alpha's wife and son left for France months ago, traveling without visas, and he has heard nothing from them since. With a visa, Alpha's journey would take a matter of hours. Without one, he is adrift for over a year, encountering human traffickers in the desert, refugee camps in Mali and Algeria, overcrowded boats carrying migrants between the Canary Islands and Europe's southern coast, and a cast of companions lost and found along the way. Throughout, Alpha stays the course, carrying his loved ones' photograph close to his heart as he makes his perilous trek across the continent --… (more)

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