128 pages

Trade Cloth

List Price US $24.99
ISBN: 9781942658405


ISBN: 9781942658412

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“Bessora’s prose and Barroux’s illustrations join to illuminate the heart-wrenching journey of a West African refugee. . . . The reader is drawn into the refugee’s experience and shares his agonizing odyssey via the graphic novel’s blunt yet poetic language.”

World Literature Today

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“The international refugee crisis is given a singular expression in this affecting work.”

PEN America

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“Intimately told. . . . Masterfully composed. While immigration may be a contentious political issue, Alpha reminds us of the people behind the headlines: those who inhabit the smugglers’ compartments in rickety trucks, pay for fake passports, and trust their lives to boats that are barely seaworthy, all in search of a better future for themselves and their families.”

Foreword Reviews

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“As political debates and news reports on immigration proliferate, rare is empathetic reportage of the actual experiences and desperation these migrants face. . . . Alpha is that compassionate link. . . . ‘You can’t wash away the dust,’ Bessora writes. ‘It’s not just in the streets—the dust has settled in people’s hearts.’ Alpha: Abidjan to Paris draws a refugee with empathy and compassion, in an effort to lift the dust in people’s hearts.”

Shelf Awareness for Readers

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Alpha is the story of everyone who bravely risks all they know for the hope of a better future. . . . Honest and direct rather than inspiring and romantic, Alpha gives a name and face to the multitudes in refugee camps all over the world. An important story for all of us to know.”

New York Journal of Books

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“The text is blunt, matter of fact, but also painfully deep and poetic. . . . [The illustrations] effortlessly complement the text. . . . The washes of greys and blacks stain the page much like tears. This powerful book is an important one. It needs to be in the hands of every citizen of the world, so they can, for a moment, peer into the plight of others and, perhaps, reshape how refugees are viewed.”

Literature, Arts and Medicine Database

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“To those who say that ‘illegal’ migrants are line-jumpers, [Alpha] . . . is a vivid retort.”

The Common

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“The plight of the refugee is brought to brutally vivid life in this visual diary. . . . By homing in on the experience of one symbolic individual, Alpha humanizes the too-often faceless tragedy.”


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“A compelling tale. . . . Heartbreaking and timely.”

Kirkus Reviews

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“Lays forth the many forms of devastation suffered by lives adrift while introducing memorable characters.”

Library Journal

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“A migrant’s harrowing journey to follow his wife and son to Paris from Côte d’Ivoire unfolds in an illustrated narrative that . . . movingly depicts Alpha’s challenging passage.”

Publishers Weekly

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“[Alpha] breaks from the traditional dynamic graphic novel format of panels and speech bubbles. Rather, Bessora’s expressive words serve as captions to the half-page illustrations. . . . Subtle elements of collage are incorporated; small photographs, often of young children, peek into the fore- or background of certain scenes. . . . This stark, poetic story personalizes immigration. For all libraries.”

School Library Journal (starred review)

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“[A] unique work in comics. . . . The fate of the immigrant is in crisis across the globe, including in the United States of America. Books like Alpha help to educate the public and help to build toward a safer and more merciful world.”

Comics Grinder

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“[Alpha’s] tale of smugglers, fake passports, wasted bribes, and desperate migration is happening today. . . . Great graphic novels, like great novels, can spread the gift of empathy.”

Illustration Concentration

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“A powerful graphic novel that is also suitable for young adults. . . . [Alpha’s] first-person account of his ‘adventures’ devolves into a living nightmare as the journey drags on with a constantly changing group of companions. The prose is simple, and the story is told without embellishment. . . . The illustrations set a mood of haste and simplicity, appearing to be marker sketches—almost as if they could have been made on the journey. . . . It will be difficult to look upon the plight of any refugees without reflecting on Alpha’s journey.”


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“Groundbreaking. . . . Stunning text.”


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“Takes us to the human soul of the migrant crisis and the exploitation they face.”

Daily Record

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“A searing tale of our time. . . . Once you read this deeply troubling book, passing by, looking away, is no longer an option.”

Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse and An Eagle in the Snow

“The emotion of Barroux’s simple art and layouts pulled me along on Alpha’s journey. This book stands out, along with Don Brown’s The Unwanted, from other graphic novels about the current refugee crisis.”

Gene Ambaum, co-creator of Unshelved and the Library Comic

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“Amnesty International UK endorses Alpha because it provides insight into the realities of migration and the desperate search for a better life.”

Nicky Parker, Publisher of Amnesty International UK

Alpha’s wife and son left Côte d’Ivoire months ago to join his sister-in-law in Paris, but Alpha has heard nothing from them since. With a visa, Alpha’s journey to reunite with his family would take a matter of hours. Without one, he is adrift for over a year, encountering human traffickers in the desert, refugee camps in northern Africa, overcrowded boats carrying migrants between the Canary Islands and Europe’s southern coast, and an unforgettable cast of fellow travelers lost and found along the way. Throughout, Alpha stays the course, carrying his loved ones’ photograph close to his heart as he makes his perilous trek across continents.

Featuring emotive, full-color artwork created in felt-tip pen and wash, Alpha is an international award–winning graphic novel supported by Amnesty International and Le Korsa, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving human lives in Senegal.

Bessora and Barroux’s graphic novel Alpha is translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone, an award-winning translator of over forty titles including The Little Prince Graphic Novel, a New York Times Notable Book. Ardizzone has twice won the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation. She also curates educational programs, including Translation Nation, Translators in Schools, and the Spectacular Translation Machine. She lives in London.

Doctors Without Borders Prize

PEN Promotes Award

GLLI (Global Literature in Libraries Initiative) Translated YA Book Prize Shortlist

CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal Longlist

Library Journal “Best Book of the Year” & “Must-Have Graphic Novel for Black History Month and Beyond” selection

School Library Journal “Best Adult Book 4 Teens” selection

Comics Journal “Best Comic of the Year” selection

Publishers Weekly “Hot Topic” selection

Book Riot “Must-Read Comics about Brave People Who Aren’t Superheroes” selection

Big Other “Most Anticipated Small Press Book” selection

Seattle Public Library “Seattle Reads: Suggested Reading” & “Seattle Picks: Graphic Novels and Comics” selection

Excerpt from Alpha

Read an excerpt from Bessora and Barroux’s graphic novel Alpha in PEN America’s “Illustrated PEN” series and view a gallery of images in the Guardian.

Watch Bessora discuss her graphic novel Alpha on the BBC’s Authors Live and find out more about the book’s origins in this interview with Bessora and translator Sarah Ardizzone.

Find a wealth of resources for your book club and classroom at The Alpha Book.