Monday, May 3, 2010

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

"This is a story about rogues" is the tantalizing first sentence of The House at Sugar Beach, New York Times journalist Helene Cooper's memoir about growing up in pre-civil war Liberia and the coup that forced her family to move to the United States when she was a teen. As descendants of Liberia's founders, the Coopers led a privileged life in Liberia - international school for Helene and her sister, trips to the U.S. to visit relatives and shop for shampoo, afternoons at the Relda cinema - but all that came to an abrupt end with the 1980 coup. Not only does the book appeal to all your senses, but you can't stop turning the pages knowing that a coup is coming, and then not knowing what happened to the Coopers' foster sister who had to stay behind.

The morning book group is discussing The House at Sugar Beach on Friday, May 7 at 10:30 a.m. Discussion questions are available here. Feel free to make the recipe for traditional Liberian peanut soup at the end of the questions! If you'd like to find out more about what Helene and her family have been up to, check out the Bookreporter interview.

If you're interested in reading more about Liberia, I recommend Polish war correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski's In the Shadow of the Sun. The chapter on his experience in Liberia can be read at the Guardian web site. On a happier note, Liberia now has Africa's first woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and her memoir, This Child Will Be Great, is currently available at BHPL (like every other book mentioned in this post). First person to the shelf wins. Go!

1 comment:

Ellen said...

I should have included a link to Helene Cooper's travel piece about Liberia & how it's becoming known for its surfing. at sugar beach&st=cse&scp=2