Book Review: North to Paradise by Ousman Umar

The inspiring true story of one man’s treacherous boyhood journey from a rural village in Ghana to the streets of Barcelona—and the path that led him home.

Ousman Umar is a shaman’s son born in a small village in Ghana. Though his mother died giving birth, he spent a contented childhood working the fields, setting traps in the jungle, and living off the land. Still, as strange and wondrous flying machines crisscrossed the skies overhead, Ousman dreamed of a different life. And so, when he was only twelve years old, he left his village and began what would be a five-year journey to Europe.

Every step of the way, as he traveled across the Sahara desert, through the daunting metropolises of Accra, Tripoli, Benghazi, and Casablanca, and over the sea aboard a packed migrant dinghy, Ousman was handed off like merchandise by a loose network of smugglers and in the constant, foreboding company of “sinkers”: other migrants who found themselves penniless and alone on their way north, unable to continue onward or return home.

But on a path rife with violence, exploitation, and racism, Ousman also encountered friendship, generosity, and hope. North to Paradise is a visceral true story about the stark realities of life along the most dangerous migrant route across Africa; it is also a portrait of extraordinary resilience in the face of unimaginable challenges, the beauty of kindness in strangers, and the power of giving back.

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My Review

I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy from the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.

What a journey! The perils that Ousman encountered trying to get to “White Man’s Land” would be unbearable for most of us, and to think that he was a child! He suffered through so much, it was a relief when he finally made it to Spain even though his struggles weren’t over yet.

It was eye opening to learn how many migrants die trying to find a better life, and how many get stuck along the way as slaves in one way or another. Ousman was one of the lucky ones, but he also had the perseverance and strength to continue on. And the strangers he met in Spain were amazing!

My favorite part of the book was the end. Ousman explained how he started NASCO Feeding Minds. Talk about making a difference! There were also several pictures that had captions explaining when and where they were taken.

I don’t read a lot of memoirs but this one is absolutely worth your time.

About the Author

Ousman Umar was born in Ghana and immigrated to Europe when he was seventeen. In 2012 he founded NASCO Feeding Minds, an NGO dedicated to the principle that the most effective way to prevent migrants from leaving Ghana for Europe is to provide top-notch opportunities for education and advancement in Ghana.

NASCO Feeding Minds