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Lorraine's BookShelf

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper

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As a descendant of one the America Black freemen who founded Liberia, Helene Cooper grew up in a world of privilege and prestige among the "Congo" class. Helene lived with her parents, her sister Marlene—and a foster sister, Eunice who would become Helene's best friend—in a twenty-two room mansion by the sea. The Cooper daughters blissfully enjoyed the trappings of wealth and advantage claimed by the Liberian elite—until April 1980, when a coup left President Tolbert and his cabinet executed and the entire Congo class on the run. Helene, Marlene, and her mother fled Sugar Beach, and then Liberia, for America. Eunice, born to the Bassa tribe, was left behind.

From high school in Tennessee, to discovering her passion for journalism at the University of North Carolina, to a career reporting from everywhere except Africa as a foreign correspondent, Helene manages never to return to the trauma of Liberia, a country that had since descended into war-torn hell. But she couldn't forget the sister she had to leave behind. Finally, a near-death experience in Iraq told Helene that her homeland—and Eunice—could wait no longer. 

With unflinching honesty and a survivor's gentle humor, The House at Sugar Beach is at once a deeply personal memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified country. And, at its heart, it is a story of one brave woman's long voyage home