By Helene Cooper
Helene Cooper is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and author of the previous best selling book, “The House at Sugar Beach”. In this, her second book about Liberia, Cooper places her spotlight directly on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Sirleaf is the first woman elected to head any African government. Not only is Sirleaf the first female President of Liberia, but she also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work in establishing peace in Liberia.
What did it make me think about?
Africa is a continent full of complicated countries and Liberia is no exception. For over a decade, while under the presidency of Charles Taylor, Liberia experienced a brutal civil war. “Over the course of fourteen years, Taylor had laid waste to his country, turning the already limping West African backwater into a hell on earth. He had launched a war. His forces had kidnapped thousands of children, fed them alcohol and drugs, and turned them into psychopathic killers. The forces he unleashed left an estimated 75 percent of Liberian women victimized by rape and other forms of sexual violence.” This biography is not only about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, it is a very interesting look at Liberian history.
Should I read it?
I would recommend this book with just a few reservations. It is a really interesting look at Liberia- especially what has been happening there in recent years. Having said that, after reading this book I did not feel any emotional connection to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I was impressed by her accomplishments, but do not feel as if I know her any better than I did before reading this book. I do feel as if I got a snapshot of Liberia. I am in awe of the problems any leader of Liberia faces: lack of infrastructure, sexual violence, sanitation, corruption, and so many more issues. Let alone a female leader in a very patriarchal society. This book may be slightly one-dimensional, but it is a fascinating dimension. For that reason I recommend this one!
“In 2003, Liberia was dubbed one of the world’s worst places, among a small handful of countries that combined ‘warfare, banditry, disease, land mines, and violence in a terminal adventure ride.’”