In Search Of A Lost African Childhood
Simon & Schuster
On Sale: September 2, 2008
Featuring: Helene Cooper
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Helene Cooper is "Congo," a descendant of two Liberian
dynasties -- traced back to the first ship of freemen that
set sail from New York in 1820 to found Monrovia. Helene
grew up at Sugar Beach, a twenty-two-room mansion by the
sea. Her childhood was filled with servants, flashy cars, a
villa in Spain, and a farmhouse up-country. It was also an
African childhood, filled with knock foot games and hot
pepper soup, heartmen and neegee. When Helene was eight, the
Coopers took in a foster child -- a common custom among the
Liberian elite. Eunice, a Bassa girl, suddenly became known
as "Mrs. Cooper's daughter."
For years the Cooper
daughters -- Helene, her sister Marlene, and Eunice --
blissfully enjoyed the trappings of wealth and advantage.
But Liberia was like an unwatched pot of water left boiling
on the stove. And on April 12, 1980, a group of soldiers
staged a coup d'état, assassinating President William
Tolbert and executing his cabinet. The Coopers and the
entire Congo class were now the hunted, being imprisoned,
shot, tortured, and raped. After a brutal daylight attack by
a ragtag crew of soldiers, Helene, Marlene, and their mother
fled Sugar Beach, and then Liberia, for America. They left
A world away, Helene tried to assimilate as
an American teenager. At the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill she found her passion in journalism, eventually
becoming a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and
the New York Times. She reported from every part of
the globe -- except Africa -- as Liberia descended into
war-torn, third-world hell.
In 2003, a near-death
experience in Iraq convinced Helene that Liberia -- and
Eunice -- could wait no longer. At once a deeply personal
memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified
country, The House at Sugar Beach tells of tragedy,
forgiveness, and transcendence with unflinching honesty and
a survivor's gentle humor. And at its heart, it is a story
of Helene Cooper's long voyage home.
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