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

The House at Sugar Beach In Search of a Lost African Childhood 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 to found Monrovia Helene grew up at Sugar Beach a twenty tw

  • Title: The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood
  • Author: Helene Cooper
  • ISBN: 9780743266253
  • Page: 123
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 withHelene 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 tat, 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.

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    2 thoughts on “The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood

    1. Helene Cooper is a Liberian born American journalist who is a White House correspondent for the New York Times Previous to that, she was the diplomatic correspondent for the paper based in Washington, D.C She joined the Times in 2004 as assistant editorial page editor.At The Wall Street Journal, Cooper wrote about trade, politics, race and foreign policy at the Washington and Atlanta bureaus from 1992 to 1997 From 1997 to 1999, she reported on the European Monetary Union from the London bureau From 1999 to 2002, she was a reporter focusing on international economics then assistant Washington bureau chief from 2002 to 2004.In 2008, she published a memoir titled The House at Sugar Beach Simon Shuster The memoir largely concerns the Liberian coup of 1980 and its effect on Cooper s family, socially and politically elite descendants of American freed slaves who colonized the country in the 19th century.

    2. This book is soft, tentative and predictable. It is 85% Helene Cooper and 15% Liberia. Though Cooper is a reputable journalist, this is her memoir; it lingers on her girlish crushes, her favorite dresses and the troubled marriage of her aristocratic parents. The second part is an unexceptional account of Cooper's semi-assimilation into American culture, starting midway through her high school years and tracing her deliberate mission to become an influential foreign correspondent. Throughout this [...]

    3. If you enjoyed this book, you should check out My Colombian War by Silvana Paternostro. Their stories are remarkably similar: (a) the narrator is part of the rich, privileged class in a predominantly poor country. (b) Her ancestors are important founders of her country and she lives a charmed childhood up until increasing violence forces her to flee the country in her teens – (c) leaving behind the lower-class girl her parents had semi-adopted to be her friend. (d) She immerses herself in the [...]

    4. I loved reading this book. It’s a memoir of the author’s privileged childhood in Liberia, the early days of civil war there and her family’s flight, and her journey of building a life in another country and ultimately coming to terms with her homeland. Helene Cooper is an award-winning journalist, and you can see that clearly in her writing, which is compelling, informative, and relatable. She builds scenes from her childhood in an almost novelistic way, and explores the dynamics of her co [...]

    5. If you are interested in learning a thing or two about Liberia, definitely pick up this book. Helene Cooper does a wonderful job of telling her family's very interesting story while putting everything into a historical context. I learned a lot more about Liberia by reading this book and it has inspired me to learn more.

    6. Helene Cooper's compelling memoir of her childhood in Liberia and immigration to the US following the coup in 1980 is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it a number of years ago, and still remember it vividly. I listened to the audiobook version.

    7. Liberia, if you didn't know, and I sure didn't, was founded by free slaves in the 1800's. Like most civilizations, they immediately divided the country into a caste system, the cultivated American born and the native, "country" people. According to history, this eventually resulted in a coup, no real surprise.This memoir is written by one of the little girls that grew up in the upper class of this society until she was a teen. Her family had more or less adopted a "country" girl, and they became [...]

    8. I'd like to excuse Cooper's failure to grapple meaningfully with the themes that should be all over a book about a girl growing up in pre-war Liberia as a character weakness, which is how she presents it, but I can't. To constantly focus on the superficial as a defense mechanism against disparity and atrocity makes for a poor memoir. The "Acknowledgments" section is full of thanks to people who encouraged her to delve deeper and talk about the big picture - I can only imagine what a disaster an [...]

    9. I nabbed this book from my husband's to-read pile one afternoon, thinking I'd read a few pages. I had a hard time putting it down and had to claim it as my own for a few days. Ms. Cooper's memoir is gentle and wry, which is probably pretty difficult to do when you are writing about one of the most volatile areas in recent memory.I liked it best when she wrote about her family and her own experience, but the "history lessons" she inserted were relevant, and certainly necessary for a reader (like [...]

    10. I am going to respectfully give this book a miss for now. I started reading the book and just could not connect to it. Not the right moment to read it. The violence and journalistic approach to the story is getting me down.Will try again later.

    11. 4.5 stars, rounding up to 5. Sometimes books make you confront uncomfortable truths about yourself, such as how impossibly narrow your world view might be. I’m ashamed to admit I knew little of Liberia and its history other than “Scary place…I think you get murdered there?” I had no idea it began with freed slaves from America, that it was contemplated as an American colony. No clue. The author is a well-respected journalist who grew up in Liberia’s upper class, her origins a self-desc [...]

    12. It has been my privilege and pleasure to know many Liberians who have moved to the Spokane area in the past several years. Some are among my dearest friends. I knew quite a bit, I thought, about the dreadful civil war that fragmented their country and sent so many into exile and still many others to their graves from conversations and participating in gatherings with them. Books like Russell Banks' novel "The Darling" filled in some blanks, and my own research filled in still others, but Helene [...]

    13. Helene Cooper lived an idyllic life in Sugar Beach, Liberia a proud descendant of Liberia's founding fathers. The trouble begins when Helene's parents divorce, and shortly after a coup takes place upsetting all semblance of order for the wealthier segment of society to which Helene's family belongs. The book details the fight for power between the Country folk and the Congos and the resulting pain and persecution by the winning faction, Helene's family's resulting journey to the U.S. and her dis [...]

    14. I enjoyed this book. I never paid much attention to the various struggles going on in Liberia and this provided a graphic picture. It also gave unique insight into the creation of Liberia as an American "colony".The book touches many issues that could generate interesting discussions:* Why would blacks who knew first-hand the problems with slavery and class institute those same structures in their new country?* Why do people think they should go into other people's countries/lands and take them [...]

    15. Wow. In spite of a slow start, this was a beautifully written and poignant memoir. I not only felt like I experienced an important history lesson in learning about Cooper's rich family tree and the founding of Liberia, but I also felt like I came to understand more deeply the way in which history constantly demands that women carry profound emotional burdens.Cooper, who grows up as a happy Congo person in Liberia, has to flee the country with her mom and her sister after a major coup turns the c [...]

    16. What a tremendous memoir. It is vivid, full of life and passion, taking the tragedy that is Liberia and wrapping it in memories of a childhood graced with laughter and love. Cooper tells her unique history, as a child of privilege and opportunity living in a family compound outside Monrovia, Liberia in the 1970s. She is forced to flee with her mother and youngest sister in 1980, after Samuel Doe and his rebel soldiers staged a coup d'etat and assassinated President Tolbert; she would not return [...]

    17. Reading this little gem, divided into bite-sized chapters of varying topic and portent, was akin to chatting with Ms. Cooper over afternoon tea. Quite enjoyable; though not always the topics. Riots and war are nothing to chuckle over. Rather, Cooper's candid openness about her childhood was the joyous element. Which often entailed a few humorous antics or spoiled-brat self-incriminations. Prior to reading The House on Sugar Beach, I knew very little about either the author or Liberia and its Ame [...]

    18. This extraordinary memoir deserves all the rave reviews it has received. The author skillfully combines stories about her own life with the history of Liberia. The destruction of the country during the fighting seems inevitable as she describes the problems which existed there from the early 19th C. on. Don't miss this one.

    19. I was quite excited to read "The House at Sugar Beach" about Helene Cooper's childhood in Liberia and eventual life as a refugee in America, after reading her short account of it in the New York Times. But I was to be sorely disappointed and came away with a solid dislike of the author's younger self. I've finished books of a similar length in two days, but it took me months to read this one as it was incredibly boring. This memoir is in essence the story of a rich girl's boring everyday life (a [...]

    20. Before reading this book, I knew next to nothing about Liberia. Just a vague sense that its recent history had been violent, and the recollection that it was the African country where Lincoln had wanted to relocate the freed slaves after the Civil War. I had no idea that its history was so tied to America — that a group of freed slaves left the coast of the United States in the 1820s and crossed the Atlantic to establish a colony on these West African shores. By the 1970s (when the story in th [...]

    21. Helene Cooper grew up in Liberia the daughter of two historically important Congo elite families. However her idyllic childhood came to an abrupt end on April 12, 1980 when Liberia's civil war began. As members of the Congo class were being imprisoned, shot, tortured or raped Helene and her family fled to the US but left behind in Liberia their foster daughter Eunice.Helene's memoir recounts the cultural history of Liberia alongside anecdotes from her own childhood, through her relocation to the [...]

    22. I have been fascinated with Liberia since I read Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's autobiography, "This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President." and saw the documentary, “Pray the devil back to hell.” They were stories about how the courageous women of Liberia went on strike to stop the endless wars, a marvelous example of non-violent protest that led to the election of Ellen Sirleaf.We hear about Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and the Civil War protests here in the [...]

    23. Good book overall, but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much history in the beginning. I found the history very early on in the book to be interesting (especially about how Liberia came to be) but then she gets mired down into way too much detail. I couldn't keep any of the people straight or what their significance was. I finally had to start skipping through all the history parts until I came to dialogue. We read this for book club and only 2 out of 7 people finished the book because they couldn't [...]

    24. I have always been interested in the Liberian "experiment" and how it started. This book gives an interesting historical background of the founders. After that, I was really disappointed with the memoir aspect of this novel. The author gives a very detailed perspective on her life and her people, less on the indigenous natives of Liberia or "townies". Something was missing, a sort of compassion for the people who could not/ or would not leave. It was written so matter of factly. As a youth, she [...]

    25. This is an autobiography of a girl who grew up among the privileged classes of Liberia. Her family had servants for cooking, doing the dishes… Her entire world vanished abruptly in 1980 when a coup forced them to flee to the U.S. The events around the coup convulse the life of the author. This and the description of her return to Liberia 23 years later to re-visit her native land are the most intriguing and personal parts of the book.The narrative concerned with her years of entitlement in Lib [...]

    26. This tender memoir shows us a side of society that exists in many African countries but is seldom portrayed--the upper middle class. I found it refreshing to read about the lives of Africans of means who aren't embezzlers and tin-pot dictators or blood-crazed war lords bent on carving out a kingdom from the flesh of their victims. Helene Cooper's family certainly had its share of flawed characters, but their lifestyle wasn't vastly different from Americans in similar economic circumstances.Their [...]

    27. Excellent exploration of both Liberia's history and a young woman's struggle figure out what that history means to her, and how she defines herself in regard to it. The author did a great job of weaving the two together, so we could see at the same time what she was seeing at the time v. what people from other classes were seeing v. the wider political and historical context. Very compellingly written, and had the kind of self-awareness that I don't see in enough memoirs.I had this read aloud by [...]

    28. I liked it. Didn't LOVE it. It was an easy read, thanks probably to the fact that the author is a journalist. I appreciated the history in the book. Rather than just launch into what a crazy time it is in Liberia, she sets up the book very well by telling how it came to be that way. I was amazed at how a small turn of events can cause chaos that lasts decades. The author herself admits that when things get tough, she focuses on other things, and I think that comes across in this book. Even thoug [...]

    29. A Wall Street Journal reporter tells her story of growing up Liberian and escaping the violence and revolutions of the 1980s. One of this memoir’s greatest strengths is the evolving story of the insanity of Liberia as it devolves into chaos and anarchy. It is also a mirror into what it means to be a refugee in America, especially one of color. Cooper fought hard to be an ‘American’, trying to forget her genetic and cultural backgroundbut slowly ’succeeds’. The greatest strength of this [...]

    30. I have always found the history of Liberia to be intriguing. Cooper's memoir provides a concise history of Liberia starting with its being established as a homeland for freed African Americans and Afro Caribbeans who dominated the government and gained ownership of most of the land. The story is made more rich and accessible by Cooper’s own personal experience growing up in that country. A major theme in this book is the irony of Cooper’s unquestioning acceptance of the established order and [...]

    31. Having just read The Underground Railroad this book is almost slavery in reverse. They both begin in the 1820's - UGRR is the escaping of slaves, while Sugar Beach is the story of freed slaves leaving America to colonize in their native Africa. This book covers the same time frame and events as Madame President but from an entirely different viewpoint. What a remarkable woman to get from war torn Liberia to the top of her career at the WSJ and NYT. That's determination! Ms Cooper has done for Li [...]

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