cover image North to Paradise: A Memoir

North to Paradise: A Memoir

Ousman Umar, trans. from the Spanish by Kevin Gerry Dunn. Amazon Crossing, $19.95 (170p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3011-3

In this astounding tale of courage and tragedy, Umar—founder of NASCO Feeding Minds, a nonprofit committed to improving the lives of Ghanaians—recounts the harrowing journey he endured immigrating to Europe from Ghana. “When we started out, there were forty-six of us. Only six survived,” he writes at his story’s outset, laying bare the scope of misfortune he encountered over five years, after leaving his remote village at age 12 with a group of migrants for a better life in Europe. Early on in their trip, though, their smugglers abandoned them, forcing Umar and the others to find their own way through the desert without food or water: “Whenever we were lucky enough to find moist sand, we grabbed fistfuls of it and squeezed it until a single drop fell on our lips.” Even after making it out of the desert, brutal beatings and the cruelty of human traffickers became Umar’s norm as he made his way to Casablanca en route to Europe. Still, with unerring humanity, Umar brings instances of light to his sobering tale through moving recollections of the friendships that bolstered him and moments of “divine intervention” that led him to finally find a new home in Spain. This is a stunning testament to the strength of the human spirit. (Mar.)