Sunday, October 30, 2016

The House At Sugar Beach, by Helene Cooper

Hi Dear Folk,

The House At Sugar Beach, by Helene Cooper, is an autobiography that I bought at the library on CD for just $0.50 cents.  What makes this audio so good is that it is read by the author, with all the nuances of the different Liberian speech dialects and cadences.  It is about the author's childhood into her teens, growing up in Liberia, her later life as a journalist and her return to Liberia.

Liberia in it's more recent history was founded by free slaves sailing from New York, landing and founding Monrovia in 1820.  After months of negotiation to buy land it was eventually forcibly taken from the indigenous tribes and there lies the whole route of the problem.  These new settlers came to be known as The Congo people, they were the elite ruling class.  With all major positions in government, lawyers and major land owners.

Helene grew up at Sugar Beach in a twenty-two room early 1970's mansion, which her father had built, with beautiful vistas of the beach and Atlantic Ocean.  A life of servants, flashy American cars, a villa in Spain, and a farmhouse and plantation property up state, an almost duplicate look of a Southern Plantation.

An African childhood filled with knock foot games and hot pepper soup, heartmen and negree.  When she was eight years old they took in a foster child, a Bassa girl Eunice.  They lived blissfully in a privileged world of private schools, summer holidays in Spain at their villa, trips to family in the USA.  Regular visits to local family which meant everything, grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins.  A country where western ideas, American TV shows, Paris designer dresses and government balls, lived along with Witch Doctors and a sub strata of poor.

The 12th April 1980 this all came to an end, a group of soldiers staged a coup d'etat, assassinating Liberian President William Tolbert and executing his cabinet.  The Cooper's and the entire Congo Class were now the hunted, being imprisoned, shot tortured and raped.  This is when Helene's family fled to the USA leaving Eunice behind.

Beautiful Sugar Beach became a place of terror, and the soldiers found out how easy it was to overthrow a government but how hard it is to actually govern and keep the infrastructure going. All descends into madness and chaos, different groups overthrowing the previous, until barbarity rules. Men running round with machine guns, wearing white wedding dresses and blond wigs because the witch doctor said this would stop bullets hurting them.

I knew some basics of Liberian history and had a friend, who escaped from Liberia with her grandmother, who set aside a large bag of rice which they travelled with, to bribe people on the way and a boatman who rowed them across the border to another country.  She had many stories, but I would have so much more to ask her now that I have listened to this book.  I asked my son if he learned anything of this in his American History class at school, but no, I would have thought this would have been a most interesting part related to the USA's checkered history of race.

I will always remember the saying "I'll hold your foot," which means "I beg of you," must say it in the Liberian way.  Well worth reading this book and even better if you can listen to the audio, I would say almost a must.  In view of that I have a give-away.  If you would like to listen to the book, leave a comment between now and next Sunday November 6th at Midnight and I will draw a name.  I will send this CD book set anywhere in the world.


P.S.  I just wanted to add this our friend Wilf  (bottom photo Wilf and Rose) from S. Africa says that in SA the health insurance will even pay for a visit to the Witch Doctor

1 comment:

  1. It sounds really interesting. How sad that Eunice was left behind. It must be a real shock to the system to lose everything when you have had a life of luxury.


01 09 10