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Alpha. Abidjan to Gare du Nord

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  79 reviews
With a Visa, Alpha's journey would take a matter of hours. Without one, he is adrift for months. In desperation, he leaves his home in Abidjan. The odds are stacked against him - the people traffickers in the desert, the refugee camps, the overcrowded boats.

Along the way he meets an unforgettable cast of adventurers, each one willing to face a journey fraught with danger r
Paperback, 120 pages
Published 2016 (first published September 1st 2014)
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Jon Nakapalau
Heartbreaking look at one man trying to find his wife and son; the abuse and advantage that these migrants face at the hand of human trafficking gangs is horrifying - what use is the UN if they can't even agree to bring these criminals to justice? ...more
I learned about this remarkable book from the Guardian newspaper, and immediately ordered it from the UK. This is a book that describes the desperation and the despair of young men in West Africa. We see stories of the thousands who are stranded in Morocco and Algeria, trying to cross over to Spain and make their way into Europe. Alpha leaves Abidjan, the capital of the Ivory Coast, to search for his wife and son who went to Paris. He has not heard anything from them, and leaves to find his wife ...more
Viv JM
There's nobody to explain what's going on. And nobody who dares ask - animals prefer not to know when they're being led to the slaughter. It's always like this. And no, you don't get used to it. You just resign yourself to it. That's all.

This graphic novel tells the story of Alpha, who makes the perilous journey from Cote d'Ivoire in the hope of arriving at his sister in law's salon near the Gare du Nord in Paris, having sent his wife and child ahead sometime before (but he has not heard from t
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite honestly I spent days trying to figure out how to write a review for Alpha and I still don’t know. Emotionally it’s a story that had left me raw, especially the epilogue which just felt like being punched again.

I really want people to read Alpha but I can’t write that it’s beautiful or inspiring. The art is a reflection of the story, it’s grey and bleak. As reader you want there to be hope, something to make all the things Alpha goes through to be worth it. It’s what keeps Alpha and the re
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I re-read this recently for a little thing and apparently I didn't review it on Goodreads the first time around. This is a powerful and vital look at the story of migration that's happening around the world. Look past the barbaric narratives in the newspapers and read books like this. ...more
Rod Brown
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 tr
The heart breaking story of an Ivorian man trying to make his way to the Gare du Nord to reunite with his family, of whom he has had no news since they left to make the same journey. A graphic novel but laid out more like a collection of photographs with captions underneath. Mostly there are two to a page, sometimes one larger one. The illustrations are impressionistic but vivid, people's faces sketched out and staring - sometimes at the floor, sometimes searching the horizon, sometimes directly ...more
We follow Alpha, a cabinet maker from Cote d'Ivoire, on his journey north in hopes of reuniting with his wife and young son in Paris. This story of migration and human suffering was a bitter and strong pill, but one that is important to read and learn in light of the present crisis. ...more
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The tragedy of our time must be the millions of people so tormented by economic or political repression--very often, both--that they decide, or are forced, to leave their homes and try to find peace or sustenance for themselves and their families. In the United States, we pay the most attention to Mexicans and Central Americans who come through the southern border, although I have also met people from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and, particularly, African and Chinese, who use that route. Once ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphics, fdr
Stark fictional narrative of a man trying to immigrate from Cote D'Ivoire to France and the people and problems he encounters on the way. It's a bleak picture and I definitely felt the guilt of the expat and tourist who's seemingly oblivious to the struggles of these "adventurers" as he calls himself. The gloomy muddled style of the illustrations adds gravity to the tone of this short graphic novel. ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that you know is going to stay with you. The graphic novel format made the words even more difficult to hear.
Daisy May Johnson
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's difficult to know how to classify this raw and brilliant book, so perhaps I shall classify it as a story about people and leave it at that. I was lucky enough to interview Bessora, and her translator Sarah Ardizzone here and I'd urge you to check out their thoughts about Alpha. There is a lot of depth here and care, and it shines through to the final product; a graphic novel of unsparing, simple truth.

Alpha is trying to get from the Ivory Coast to the Gare Du Nord in Paris. His wife and ch
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you've ever wondered about the lives of refugees on the road then get hold of this powerful graphic novel. It is the story of Alpha whose wife and son have already set out to try to get to Paris, he hasn't heard from them since they left and now he is on the road too. He sets out, having sold all his meager possessions in the hope he will find his family and that he will be able to start a new life. Along the way he experiences people traffickers whom he pays hopefully, knowing that they may ...more
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 for
Rosie Potter
The story follows Alpha from the Ivory Coast who is travelling to meet his family (who left before him) at Gare du Nord to begin his new life. This graphic novel covers human trafficking, inhumane refugee camps and the real struggle that many people are facing the world over. The illustrations are unique, and are drawn in such a way that they help to give a human face to the suffering that is happening all over the world. I think this book would work really well in the
Debra  Golden
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This very personal tale of a man trying to leave Cote de'Ivorie is painful and, touching.
Can you even imagine not being able to leave your country ? Alpha can't get a Visa and leave to find his family in France mostly because he isn't white. He has to explore alternative (dangerous) means to travel. The illustrations are muted greys and browns with occasional splashes of bright color and fitting for the bleak scenes described. The marker like (or ink outlining gives drawings a bold and direct l
This is a beautiful if stark volume - the story it tells, the style of Bessora's writing and especially Barroux's illustrations.

Alpha Coulibaly has sent his wife and child on ahead from Cote d'Ivoire to his sister-in-law near the Gare du Nord in Paris, and now he decides to join them, to become as he calls himself an 'adventurer. The various gruelling experiences of migrants like Alpha are by now sadly familiar to us, but that does not make the story less compelling or heart breaking. The combin
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book changed how I see some things. I honestly thought all the post apocalyptic books describing bands of people coming together were fanciful. That in apocalyptic chaos, it's every mans for himself. But I think I was wrong. I think sometimes we are up and sometimes we are down. Sometimes we have the necessary skill and sometimes we don’t. And forging bonds with others evens those things out. This book showed me how the prostitute with nothing to offer, is the only one capable of making mon
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. It follows the true story of migrants travelling to Europe, hoping for a better life. It is a shame that many African countries are so corrupt and many people so poorly educated that they choose to abandon everything and risk their lives. However, I liked the illustrations, whose style complemented the brutal, chaotic story itself.
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable book. 18 months to traverse from Abidjan to Paris, a desperate journey full of people traffickers, refugee camps & overcrowded boats & cars that have seen better days. Loss & Hope & Hopelessness. A searing tale ..... Highly recommended as an education regards the life of a refugee
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my heart.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Graphic novel depicting sub-Saharan immigration to Europe as seen through the eyes of the titular Alpha. His family has connections to France; family fought for France in the world wars, relatives run a salon near the Gare Du Nord in Paris, and his wife and child have already set out. He doesn't know their fate & searches for them along his own journey up and down northern Africa. He ends up joining with a few folks for most of the way, but their fates vary from his own. If you've never read up ...more
Sep 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alpha is a tale of several refugees from sub-Saharan Africa who are trying to cross into Europe. Alpha's wife and son have gone ahead of him, and as he travels, he searches for any sign of them. It's a bleak story, well-written and moving--but then for some reason, just as it's getting to an important moment, the illustrated first-person narrative portion of the book is over, and instead we get an epilogue that's a few third-person paragraphs. It read like an outline for what the rest of the sto ...more
Ron Turner
I liked the idea of it but the art was terrible and the message of "open borders" was rather condescending. My friends on the left don't have any answers for the migrant crisis. They lecture us that we should open all the borders and welcome everyone with open arms. But how are we going to integrate millions of people? Where are those jobs going to magically come from? The solution is to go to the source and fix the failed states that are producing refugees. But then folks on the left whine abou ...more
This works great as an intro to the topic of the migrant crisis for children and teenagers. That’s pretty much why I can’t give it anything higher than a 6/10.
I feel like a real asshole giving 2 stars to a book about REFUGEES, but oh well. First, I am just not a huge fan of the artwork here. The watercolor-y drawings just didn't do it for me in this case, especially with the really drab colors. What was up with the practically 3d triangles drawn on the characters' faces for their noses? The font used for the text was a bit difficult to read. Glad to see that the male characters in the story were able to take time out of their journey as refugees to tr ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
“I imagine Europe is beautiful, but very cold too. There isn’t dust like there is in Africa. The roads are in good condition. I’m sure it’s cleaner than where I come from. I think Europe is a good place to live.”

Originally published in French in 2014 “Alpha Abidjan - Gare du Nord” is the story of Alpha, a young man setting off from poverty ridden Cote d’Ivoire, to try and track down his wife and child, who left the country before him. He sets off in an overloaded Lada, with only one functioning
Alpha is the story of a man from Côte d'Ivoire trying to reach Paris to reunite with his wife and son. In a way, Alpha has a story that is typical of many Subsaharan illegal immigrants (adventurers, he likes to call them in his tale) and refugees. He saves up some money and sells all his belongings, including his carpentry business and his house, to pay someone to drive him to Mali, then he stays there for a while to save up money for the next leg of his journey, and so on. Along the way, he for ...more
Emilia P
Aug 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comic-books
While compelling in itself as a thought exercise -- how could a refugee life look? it kinda really loses something for the fact of not being based in a single experience? There are some many good personal stories that don't check every single box! They don't have to! This felt like a primer on the migrant experience rather than a thoughtful look at it, which...if you're making your case for compassion to people who aren't totally into it, can't the stories speak for themselves? Yeah, I think so. ...more
Edward Sullivan
This exceptionally crafted, intensely moving story about an African migrant seeking refuge in Europe is worthy of a wide audience and Michael Morpurgo best explains why in his forward:

"Here is a book we should all be reading, young and old, of whatever country and continent, of whatever religion, or of no religion, of whatever political persuasion or none...

It is not a comfortable read for us in the comparative comfort of the Western society. No punches are pulled. It is a stark and seemingly
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