The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood (Paperback)Helene Cooper (author)
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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'etat, 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.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 329 g
Dimensions: 210 x 140 x 23 mm
"Helene Cooper's memoir is a remarkable page-turner: gripping, perceptive, sometimes hilarious, and always moving. Her keen eye, fierce honesty, and incisive intelligence open a window on war-torn Liberia, America, and the stunning challenge of a life that straddles these deeply intertwined societies." -- Jeffrey D. Sachs, special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and author of The End of Poverty
"The tragedy of Liberia -- the most American of all the African tragedies -- is brought painfully to life in Helene Cooper's memoir. Her work is an antidote to statistics and headlines and the blur of Africa's sorrows, a reminder that history and war proceed one family at a time, one person at a time. They are never abstract, always personal." -- Arthur Phillips, author of Prague, The Egyptologist, and Angelica
"Rendered with aching nostalgia and wonderful language -- is a voyage of return, through which the author seeks to recover the past and to find that missing sister, even as the war deepens over the years to come. Elegant and eloquent, and full of news from places about which we know too little." -- Kirkus (Starred review)
"Among Cooper's aims in becoming a journalist were to reveal the atrocities committed in her native country. With amazing forthrightness, she has done so, delivering an eloquent, if painful, history of the African migratory experience." -- Ms. Magazine
"Masterly.... Nothing short of brilliant." -- The New York Times Book Review
"There is tenderness in this memoir, and Cooper is clear-eyed even as she tells of her loss." -- The New Yorker
"To understand what happened in Liberia is to understand what has happened in much of Africa, and Cooper tells it not like a seasoned journalist -- which is what she is -- but like a poet." -- Entertainment Weekly
"Nearly three decades after fleeing Liberia, Cooper offers an indelible view of her homeland and makes palpable the pain that she felt when she lost it." -- People