Cover Image: Little Brother

Little Brother

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Member Reviews

'Little Brother' is a heartbreaking story about Ibrahima Balde and his journey throughout the Subsharan Africa, and in particular Libya, to find and bring back home his little brother Alhassane. More than a mere story of Alhassane's tragic destiny, we can consider this book as a first-hand reflection of what is really happening in the detention camps in Libya and why so many migrants are losing their lives in the Mediterranean Sea.. I really liked the style of this book and it gave me the sensation that Ibrahima was really there telling us all his story.
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incredibly informative and touching. a first hand account of the horrors many migrant people go through.
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This book follows the true story of Ibrahima, who, as the oldest son, has to take care of his mother, his two little sisters and his little brother after his father dies. One day, he learns by his mother that his brother fled to Libya so he decides to go after him to take him back to Guinea. He will go to Mali, Lybia, Algeria and Morocco in the hopes to find him.

This book was short yet so powerful.
I had a bit trouble with the writing style at the beginning, but I eventually got used to it. Nothing bad with it, I just thought it was a bit too simplistic (maybe because of the translation?) but it actually made total sense because it feels like Ibrahima is directly speaking to you. The chapters are very short (a couple pages each) so it looks like a he's telling you a series of anecdotes. I actually think this would work even better in audiobook form, especially because Ibrahima addresses to the reader several times during the book. I read it on the course of 2 days but I could've easily fit it in one afternoon.

The most heart wrenching thing about this book is that Ibrahima got to tell his story, but I can't help but wonder : what about all the other refugees? what is *their* specific story?
I think especially in Western countries, even if we know that these people have to flee from something horrible, we can never fully grasp the scope of it. That's one of the reasons I love to read, because I want to understand the world around me and the people living in this world, in particular parts of the world that are unfamiliar to me.

tw: death, torture, human trafficking, racism
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We often see on the news stories of boatloads of immigrants making their way to Europe packed into unseaworthy inflatables known as “Zodiacs” and running into difficulties. Some become "naufrages" or “shipwrecks”. These people are trafficked from North Africa by some ruthless men asking as much as 4000 Euro from each desperate passenger.

"In order to undertake that kind of business, you have to have a small heart."

This is the story of one such immigrant, Ibrahima Balde, talking to a Basque poet, Amets Arzallus Antia, about his journey.

Ibrahima grew up in Guinea in grinding poverty. He never intended to go to Europe, his dream was to become a truck driver working in Guinea, helping support his family, but then his little brother, Alhassane, disappeared and Ibrahima, being the eldest son, felt it his duty to look for him.

The book is in three parts. The first part is Ibrahima’s life in Guinea with a brief journey to Liberia to earn some money to support his family. The second part is about his journey across the Sahara to Libya, where he last heard from his brother and the third part is about what happened after this. The journey across the Sahara is remarkable, sometimes in buses, sometimes in pick ups and sometimes on foot. En route he would often work in a small town, on a building site, mixing cement to make money for the next stage of his journey.

"I spent every day with my three friends: water, sand and cement."

It is not just the hostile terrain of the desert that makes the journey difficult. He meets with some hostile people, too. He is robbed at gunpoint, he is enslaved, he escapes a prison and he has many difficult misadventures. It is a heart-wrenching story. There are some people who help him along the way like Ismail, a young boy who massaged his legs for weeks after days of walking in the desert.

The story is told in a very straight forward manner, in short chapters. It is like, he is talking to a friend. It is a sad but important story.  

Content warning: death; homelessness; violence; torture; human trafficking; kidnapping; racism; suicidal thoughts.

With thanks to NetGalley and Skyhorse Publishing for an eARC to read and review.

Translated from the Basque by Timberlake Wertenbaker
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4.5★

little brother is a heart-wrenching tale bursting at the seams with so much tragedy and hope.

at its core it’s a story about the oldest son carrying his family on his back with all the responsibilities that come with that, including going through what all of this book was to find his miñan; little brother. it’s a story of a refugee, a migrant, a hopeful son to a suffering family, a loving brother on a journey full of hardships that blend to portray the refugee crisis.

i appreciated all that was poured into the making of this novel based on a true and real story. it made me cry and mad and had my heart aching all the way throughout. the writing style was definitely unique, though i found it fit the story quite well, weirdly. it is snappy, conversational and you’re never bored. the experience is more like listening to ibrahima balde tell it to you, and it works. and there are a few lines here and there that were poetic and resonated a lot, too. all in all, it was beautiful.

the story, however, was not beautiful at all. it is not happy. should you read it? absolutely. it is such an important story from such an important narrative that should absolutely be read.

cw: death, violence, racism, suicidal thoughts, human trafficking, terrorism, death of a loved one, thirst and starvation, torture, child abuse, misogyny, slavery, sexual assault, imprisonment.

— thanks to netgalley for providing me with the digital arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Little Brother is an incredibly heart wrenching book to read. It’s realistic, oh so painfully tragic, and knowing that all the words that have been put on paper are true, living, breathing, nightmarish memories and experiences make it so much more powerful. 

The writing style is unique to say the least. At times, it can be difficult to follow along, but I can forgive that as this is likely to due how Ibrahima Balde’s words were translated by a poet so it is understandable that things can get a little lost in translation. But regardless of the writing style, the impact of the words is still strong and it sounds like a friend recounting a story (albeit a very painful one) to you.

I would recommend this book for sure. It's relatively short, but it might take a while to make it through this book as it has a lot of heavy content. It is still 100% worth it though and there’s so much to learn from Balde’s experiences  and the way we look at the world around us.

Finally I’ll say this - Little Brother sinks its claws into your heart. I’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.
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The eldest of four children, Guinean boy Ibrahima was living in the capital, Conakry, with his shoe-seller father, when his dad suddenly passed away. Focused on providing for his mother and siblings back in the village, illiterate Ibrahima spent the next few years travelling around, picking up skills and earning a little money along the way. It was a precarious life for a child. Eventually he set himself up to become a truck driver, a job that could give him a steady income and enable his younger brother - his miñan - Alhassane, to stay in school. But when he discovers Alhassane has left the village and is in a refugee camp in Libya, en route to Europe, Ibrahima puts his own dreams on hold and sets off in search of his brother. Passing through a number of north African countries, often on foot, Ibrahima is desperate to find his brother and get them both back home to Guinea.

This book provides an unflinching account of one refugee's experience. While Ibrahima lived to tell his tale, so many don't. In this translation, the reader is occasionally reminded that this is an oral story, with Ibrahima addressing his friend, the Basque poet Amets Arzallus, directly. Perhaps Arzallus' original work brings a stronger sense of this? While I still got the sense of urgency, fear and at times hopelessness, that Ibrahima was trying to convey, there was something a bit 'flat' about it. I suspect it is the translation that dampens the emotion at times, rendering it more dispassionate than the story warrants. Overall, still a good and important read.
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Wow! I have no words! I loved the style of writing, the execution and the captivating story. I want to thank Ibrahima for sharing his story for the world to hear and have a glimpse of some of the dangers that people will endure for their loved ones. This was a powerful read and I am so thankful I had a chance to somewhat be apart of the journey.
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This was one of the most powerful stories I've read. I found myself wishing for it not to be true or for it to somehow get a bit better along the way.

The book is written in a unique way and that is thanks to Amets Arzallus Antia, a Basque poet that put Ibrahima Balde's words to paper. Whilst the style is unique, I really enjoyed reading it, it was as if you were in the room with Ibrahima listening to him recounting his life's odyssey, It's also because of the style of the book that you as a reader are able to digest the story being told here.

In a nutshell, Ibrahima travels from Guinea across many countries in North Africa (Mali, Lybia, Algeria, Morrocco) trying to find his little brother and to get him to come back home to Guinea. Everything that could happen to him does happen and yet his mind is set on finding his brother so nothing can break his spirit and resolution, until something does.

I recommend this book to absolutely everybody, well, everybody that has a heart and some empathy.
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Little Brother 
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (4.5 Stars)

This book, what can I even say. First I’ll sun it up - this is A memoir based on Ibrahima Balde's journey and put into words by the poet Amets Arzallus Antia. The story follows his journey from Guinea to Libya, Algeria, Morocco—Ibrahima faces the darkest parts of life as he searches for his brother Alhassane.

This was not a joyful book. It was not the easiest of reads, largely due to the content. It' is one of the most realistically tragic things I've ever read, or come across. It grabs you and holds you there, twisting the pit in your stomach as your heart settles in on the fact that you know this story is true. These are more than words put on paper, more than just a book. It is the live and the story of a man during one of the toughest and darkest periods of his life. It is the story of his heartbreak and struggle, they are his living and breathing memories. 

The way that this is written can seem - weird, at first. It is written by a poet and the structure can be a little strange at first - each chapter is small and kind of lyrical, but it is clear that it was written based on a conversation, likely with Balde speaking into a recorder with Antia transcribing. This book will literally address you as the reader  multiple times and has an incredibly conversational tone. There are times where he will highlight things as though you are sat directly with him,  something along the lines of, "Do you see my pants here? Look there," and, of course,you can't see them and can't look there because he's not really here. 

There is not much I can add here other thanit is something that should be read from his mouth alone. Truly quite horrific, but a brilliant read none the less.
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Little Brother is a story about a young man and the responsibility he owes to his family as he grows up in a poor region of Africa. He leaves his family at a young age to search for a job and the income he needs to provide for his family. Along the way he struggles with going between bitterness at being the responsible older brother to being excited about finding his own way. Until his little brother sets off on a journey of his own and leaves his mother to fend for herself and the younger siblings. Now Ibrahaima must set out across the desert to find his little brother and bring him home. This is a sad yet beautiful story about what it’s like to struggle with wanting to follow your dreams but having to do the right thing instead. It reminds me of the book “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo, in the journey we must all take to follow our hearts. I would recommend this to anyone who’s ever been in search of something greater than their own born-of circumstances.
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Little Brother is essential reading — powerful, insightful, and a reminder about humanity that reaches across borders and political division. Words can’t capture how powerful and central this book is.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Skyhorse Publishing for a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Little Brother is a book about a desperate, painful search. The description listed it as a novel based on the life of one of the authors. I'm not sure how much of the story is real versus fictional, so it's a little difficult to review as a novel. The writing style is rougher than usual in written work, but it seems like it's meant to be that way to replicate the subject's own speaking style. The plot feels very memoir-like, where the people are more realistic and distant than characters and the plot events aren't quite steadily building to a climax. For a memoir, that's fine. I'm not sure about for a novel. Either way, the story was interesting, even if it didn't fit the standard novel structure 100%. The story of a young man searching for his brother across multiple countries drew me in and grabbed at my heart. The emotions of the main character are clear and easily understood. I value the insight into a refugee's life that made me yearn for him to have freedom, water, safety, or even a bed to sleep on. The book did one of the primary jobs of a novel: it made me care deeply for the main character and want to see him succeed on his quest. 

I'd recommend Little Brother to anyone with an interest in refugee situations, in African literature, and/or in  break-you-down-to-your-core heart-rending human experiences.
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I received a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

This is a harrowing and captivating book!

We follow Balde in his search from Guinea to Algeria and beyond to find his younger brother. Traveling by foot, car, and dangerous means he shares his experiences. Terrifying and tragic at times Balde opens up about his family and his life as a child. We get vocabulary words and insight into the jobs and things that Balde did to survive.

It's an eye opening and interesting read.
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This was a harrowing but incredibly important read, not least because everything Ibrahima covers is the truth of what he has endured. The tragedy of his story is mirrored in the experiences of so many who are simply forgotten about by much of the rest of the world, and it is vital to put a human voice to these experiences, something which is done very effectively here. The conversational tone is incredibly engaging, it truly does feel as though you are in conversation with Ibrahima and that he is telling you his story directly, not through the medium of print. Occasionally I did find this made the prose feel a bit weird or disjointed, but overall it didn’t make the book any less impactful. 

I hope that Ibrahima is able to build a life after all of the horrors he has experienced, and I hope that the proceeds of this book will help him to do so.  

CW: death, violence, racism, suicidal thoughts, human trafficking
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The epic story of Ibrahima Balde an African refugee who journeys from Guinea halfway across Africa and ending up in Spain all to search for his little brother who has gone missing, the author has managed to tell what was a really heartbreaking story in an incredibly lighthearted and enjoyable way.  A must read which gives us an insight into the plight that refugees have to endure.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Powerful, profound, unforgettable. This is a memoir everybody should read. 

Little Brother: an odyssey to Europe tells the heartbreaking story Ibrahima Balde, a migrant from the Republic of Guinea now living in Madrid, in his own words. As a child Ibrahima dreams of being a bus driver in his country, providing for his mother and younger siblings following the death of his father, but life has other ideas. When Alhassane, Ibrahima’s ‘miñan' or little brother, decides to leave school and then disappears, the eldest son knows he must follow his brother’s path to find him, no matter where this leads. From Guinea to Mali, through Algeria to Libya and back, Ibrahima walks, runs, hides and escapes, unwavering in the face of the seemingly insurmountable adversity he encounters along the way. And then he finds out what happened to his little brother. 

Told by Ibrahima, put to paper by Basque improvisational poet Amets Arzallus Antia, and then translated by award-winning playwright Timberland Wertenbaker, the power of Ibrahima's initial aural testimony could have easily been diluted as it changed form. But this did not happen with Little Brother. The cadences of natural speech seep through the pages, the short chapters acting as a pause, a breath, before Ibrahima continues on with his story. You feel as though you are sitting across from Ibrahima and listening to him talk, which makes his testimonial all the more powerful. These are his words and this is his journey, but never does Ibrahima forget those he left behind in Africa. What became of Ismail, the young boy who massaged his legs for weeks after days of walking in the desert? What became of Emi, the Cameroonian who helped lift him out of his depression in Libya?  

Our narrator may only be one voice shouting amongst the masses, but this book serves as an important reminder that every refugee has a story, and painful hardships, of their own. Little Brother is evidence that a migrant’s life is more than an orange boat in the Mediterranean, and Ibrahima’s odyssey will stay with you long after you turn the final page. 


⚠️ Content warning: death; homelessness; violence; torture; human trafficking; kidnapping; racism; suicidal thoughts.
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