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The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood

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The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood Cover

ISBN13: 9780743266246
ISBN10: 0743266242
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 Eunice behind.

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.

Review:

"Journalist Cooper has a compelling story to tell: born into a wealthy, powerful, dynastic Liberian family descended from freed American slaves, she came of age in the 1980s when her homeland slipped into civil war. On Cooper's 14th birthday, her mother gives her a diamond pendant and sends her to school. Cooper is 'convinced that somehow our world would right itself.' That afternoon her uncle Cecil, the minister of foreign affairs, is executed. Cooper combines deeply personal and wide-ranging political strands in her memoir. There's the halcyon early childhood in Africa, a history of the early settlement of Liberia, an account of the violent, troubled years as several regimes are overthrown, and the story of the family's exile to America. A journalist-as-a-young-woman narrative unfolds as Cooper reports the career path that led her from local to national papers in the U.S. The stories themselves are fascinating, but a flatness prevails — perhaps one that mirror's the author's experience. After her uncle's televised execution, Cooper does 'the same thing I would do for the rest of my life when something bad happens: I focus on something else. I concentrate on minutiae. It's the only way to keep going when the world has ended.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

On Feb. 6, 1820, the American Colonization Society, an incongruous mix of mostly Quakers and slaveholders, dispatched a ship from New York Harbor in a bold experiment to repatriate 88 freeborn blacks to Africa's steamy west coast. When the vessel arrived at its destination a few months later, its passengers, far from being welcomed, were regarded with hostile suspicion by a native population still... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

In the tradition of "A Long Way Gone" and "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight," a world-renowned journalist presents a haunting memoir of a war-torn Liberian childhood and her return to her native country, 20 years after her family's flight, to reunite with the foster sister they left behind.

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About the Author

Helene Cooper is the White House correspondent for the New York Times, having previously served as the diplomatic correspondent and the assistant editorial page editor. Prior to moving to the Times, Helene spent twelve years as a reporter and foreign correspondent at the Wall Street Journal. She was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Shoshana, July 3, 2009 (view all comments by Shoshana)
Cooper's memoir of growing up in, fleeing from, and returning to make her peace with Liberia. Some reviewers have been unhappy that Cooper did not focus more on Liberia's internal conflict, but this is a memoir, not a journalistic appraisal of a country's political and social problems. It's appropriate to her chosen genre that Cooper focuses on her recollections of childhood, preoccupations and relationships, and life experiences, set inextricably in the context of her country's growing strife. There seemed to be plenty of history and commentary on Liberia, with the familial emphasis you would expect in a memoir.

Other reviewers have criticized her as lacking emotional expression, which is not what I see. Many memoirs of traumatic events are narrated with a superficial distance but are nonetheless very emotionally evocative, and that is the case for this life story as well.

My complaints about the book have nothing to do with the content. There are a few egregiously bad typos ("who's" for "whose" is an example), but this is the editor's oversight, not Cooper's. The typeface in the hardback is a thick, serifed style that is hard on the eye. As a narrative, however, I found it interesting and engaging.
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aspardington, January 18, 2009 (view all comments by aspardington)
Most of us know that there were a lot of former slaves who left the US to go back to Africa, mostly to Liberia, but we don't know much about what happened after that. Helene Cooper is the descendant of two of these people, and she tells a amazing story of her childhood in Liberia as part of a privileged class. But the troubled times began, and her family's good fortune came to an end. She came to the US and finished college, hoping to fulfill her dream to be a political journalist, a dream that began in Liberia. Helene is an excellent writer, a journalist who now works for the New York Times, and her professional skills combined with her personal story and her heart-felt revelations reach deeply into the reader's own heart.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743266246
Author:
Cooper, Helene
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Journalists
Subject:
History
Subject:
Journalists -- United States.
Subject:
Liberia
Subject:
Editors, Journalists, Publishers
Subject:
Biography - General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20080931
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Africa » Liberia
History and Social Science » World History » Africa

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood Used Hardcover
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$5.95 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9780743266246 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Journalist Cooper has a compelling story to tell: born into a wealthy, powerful, dynastic Liberian family descended from freed American slaves, she came of age in the 1980s when her homeland slipped into civil war. On Cooper's 14th birthday, her mother gives her a diamond pendant and sends her to school. Cooper is 'convinced that somehow our world would right itself.' That afternoon her uncle Cecil, the minister of foreign affairs, is executed. Cooper combines deeply personal and wide-ranging political strands in her memoir. There's the halcyon early childhood in Africa, a history of the early settlement of Liberia, an account of the violent, troubled years as several regimes are overthrown, and the story of the family's exile to America. A journalist-as-a-young-woman narrative unfolds as Cooper reports the career path that led her from local to national papers in the U.S. The stories themselves are fascinating, but a flatness prevails — perhaps one that mirror's the author's experience. After her uncle's televised execution, Cooper does 'the same thing I would do for the rest of my life when something bad happens: I focus on something else. I concentrate on minutiae. It's the only way to keep going when the world has ended.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , In the tradition of "A Long Way Gone" and "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight," a world-renowned journalist presents a haunting memoir of a war-torn Liberian childhood and her return to her native country, 20 years after her family's flight, to reunite with the foster sister they left behind.
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