Plot or Premise
The author was born in Ghana and left his village at the age of 12 to seek a better life in Europe. His extreme journey included smuggling, trafficking, abuse, starvation, and the loss of friends along the way.
What I Liked
The story is told rather matter-of-factly, i.e., “this is what happened to me.” And as such, it is both raw and immediate at times. It is easily accessible and the journey through the desert and the eventual crossing by raft is particularly compelling yet harrowing. It reads in places as if the story is one of the 1800s or early 1900s and people coming from Europe to Canada or the U.S. The migrant who has to just make a go of it by any means possible. Yet then you see references to modern times and are jolted back to reality. This is not 100-year-old history, these are events happening to real people on the ground now.
What I Didn’t Like
I had seen multiple references to the book in international development feeds, mainly because now that he is older, he has started a literacy charity so that he can “give back” and make the journeys of other kids in Africa a little less traumatic. It is a noble sentiment, but frequently I read these “amazing tales” and think “meh”. Many of them are no more compelling than any other person’s journey, and well, I’ve read better. One of the challenges is that the level of detail is strong in some places, but with very little commentary. He glosses over serious issues with sex trafficking, sexual abuse of migrants, and some of the basic issues of how to make it in the rough world. I kept hoping for a bit of wisdom in stepping back to see what some of the experiences meant to his future “self” or personal philosophies, but there is little introspection.
The Bottom Line
Good for the international dilettante, not enough substance for development workers