Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review: The House at Sugar Beach

Every time I went into a Starbucks for several months, I picked up a copy of The House at Sugar Beach, a memoir by Helene Cooper, and looked at it. I put a hold on it at the library, but after several months, I ran out of patience, so I finally bought the book

I have always been interested in African history, particularly that of West Africa. One reason I was drawn to this particular book is that I have a friend who grew up in Liberia. Although her background is different than that of the author, the country--and the war--is the same. And, although they left Liberia at different times, both of them had to flee the violence at about the same age.

Helene Cooper is a descendant of some of the first freemen from America who settled in Liberia in the 1820s. Her childhood was one of privilege and wealth until the 1980 coup. We first see life in Liberia from this point of view, getting glimpses of the what it was like before the wars began. Cooper loves her native country, and it comes through in her writing.

Her family flees to escape after the coup, and Cooper spends her high school and college years in the American south. She begins a career in journalism and becomes a successful international journalist. After nearly dying while covering the war in Iraq, she decides to return to Liberia to try to find her foster sister, who she had not seen in over 20 years.Even in the devastated country, she manages to find glimpses of the home she loved.

This book is a good introduction to the situation in Liberia for anyone who isn't familiar with the history of the strife there. The author is able to capture the naivete of her younger self . She tells a story that is always interesting, sometimes amusing, and often sad. This book becomes suggested reading for my students, both at home and in the classes I teach.

1 comment:

  1. This does sound very interesting. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!