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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2019 Ousman Umar. (P)2022 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved. Translation © 2022 by Kevin Gerry Dunn.

Critic Reviews

“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.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Both sobering and inspiring, this story about a young African man’s awakening to the realities of an often uncaring world offers a compelling portrait of humanity at its ignorant worst and enlightened best. A candid and provocative memoir from a determined man.”Kirkus Reviews 

What listeners say about North to Paradise

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He had me hanging on every word.

The fortitude of this young boy facing so many obstacles was amazing. You'll have to read it to believe it!

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Moving. & Amazing

Loved it! I learned so much! Thank your for sharing your story! Your journey was a real encouragement to me to keep moving forward no matter how tough life gets and to find comfort in praying to God. I love that your struggles have brought you back full circle to your country to help other children. You are a true hero and an a survivor. Stand tall & proud. Know that God got you this far and he will be with you always. The narrator did a great job reading the book.

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Inspiring and captivating story!

Loved it! Great reminder of how good we have it in the west! Hard to imagine a 12 year old going through all this!