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Extended Audio Sample The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood, by Helene Cooper Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (3,468 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Helene Cooper Narrator: Helene Cooper Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A poignant memoir of tragedy, forgiveness, and transcendence told with unflinching honesty and gentle humor

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 in a childhood 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 Bassa girl named Eunice.

For years the Cooper daughters—Helene, her sister Marlene, and Eunice—blissfully enjoyed the trappings of wealth and advantage. But on April 12, 1980 a group of soldiers staged a coup d’etat, assassinating Liberian President William Tolbert and executing his cabinet. The Coopers and the entire Congo class were now the hunted, being imprisoned, shot, tortured, and raped. Helene, Marlene, and their mother fled Sugar Beach for America. They left Eunice behind.

A world away, Helene tried to assimilate as an American and discovered 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 to which her own family is inextricably linked, The House At Sugar Beach is the story of Helene Cooper’s long voyage home.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Masterly…Nothing short of billiant.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • You must read Cooper's wildly tender memoir. It's that rarest of things, a personal story that transcends the people, the place, the world it is talking about and becomes a universal tale about the thousands of segregations, small and large, subtle and obvious, that shred all of us. It is beautifully written, utterly unself-conscious, and without a hint of self-pity. Cooper has an un-failing ear for language and a poet's tender heart. A powerful, important book that will teach you not only something about war and love, race and power, loss and hope, but also a great deal about yourself. Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood and The Legend of Colton H. Bryant
  • Helene Cooper's memoir is a remarkable page-turner: gripping, perceptive, sometimes hilarious, and always moving. Her keen eye, fierce honesty, and incisive intelligence open a window on war-torn Liberia, America, and the stunning challenge of a life that straddles these deeply intertwined societies. Jeffrey D. Sachs, special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and author of The End of Poverty
  • The tragedy of Liberia -- the most American of all the African tragedies -- is brought painfully to life in Helene Cooper's memoir. Her work is an antidote to statistics and headlines and the blur of Africa's sorrows, a reminder that history and war proceed one family at a time, one person at a time. They are never abstract, always personal. Arthur Phillips, author of Prague, The Egyptologist, and Angelica
  • “Among Cooper’s aims in becoming a journalist were to reveal the atrocities committed in her native country. With amazing forthrightness, she has done so, delivering an eloquent, if painful, history of the African migratory experience.”

    Ms. Magazine

  • “As Coopers tale unfolds, her intimate reading draws listeners into the family as their journey begins. Cooper may not read with a lot of frills and thrills in her somber voice, but the experience is affecting and indelible.” 

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “ Rendered with aching nostalgia and wonderful language— is a voyage of return, through which the author seeks to recover the past and to find that missing sister, even as the war deepens over the years to come. Elegant and eloquent, and full of news from places about which we know too little.” 

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the 2008 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Amaliya | 2/17/2014

    " I enjoyed this biography. I think Helene Cooper had difficulty stepping outside her reporter role as the story was intriguing but kind of just the facts and not a lot of emotion. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Richard | 2/4/2014

    " Memoir, history lesson and current affairs all wrapped up nicely in this book by Helene Cooper, a Liberian immigrant. Besides telling about her childhood, the book provided an interesting look at the Liberian history and culture. The only thing that made reading this book difficult was when the author quoted people speaking Liberian English... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kate | 1/31/2014

    " In reading this book, I not only enjoyed a great story but received a valuable history lesson. Well done! After finishing, I also learned that I'm "three degrees of separation" from the author. It's a small, small world. Thank you for sharing your story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Arlene | 1/25/2014

    " Helene Cooper's personal memoir narrates the role of her ancestral people in the founding and development of the American spawned country of Liberia. She glides you through her happy young life in Monrovia, the capital, and then carefully takes you to the shocking coup d'etat and resulting personal tragedies which changed her life forever. There is no self-pity in this storytelling, just plain realism that makes you reflect on your own life and how you tie yourself to your country. "

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