There are several fairly recent books out that detail the various civil wars in Africa – ugly wars that result in the purposeful killing of thousands of innocents. Sierra Leone, Darfur, Liberia, how we so easily can forget hideous terrors on another continent, especially when the victims are usually poor and the continent seems always filled with the cries of the starving and the wounded and the displaced. We (and the media) tire of hearing about the incessant need and go on to other news.
While in line for a double-chocolate-frappucino at the Starbucks in our local mall, I had a chance to peruse the coffee house’s latest featured book: The House at Sugar Beach by NYTimes reporter Helene Cooper. Perhaps you’ve read a review of it. I had, and had put it into my list of historically important books that would be too gory for me to read. It looks like I might be wrong.
Scanning through the book, I was pleased to see that Cooper’s writing was very personal and casual. She spoke to me. No sign of dreaded near-voyeuristic violence that would give me nightmares. I know there is at least one scene that will turn my stomach, but it seems that what is important to Cooper is not the replaying of torture and killing, but an understanding of what it meant to be an upper-class Liberian family ignoring the poverty and the attitudes of the everyday people around them. This is a story of a rich girl who learns to understand a different perspective. I’ll put it on my list of books to be read.
Other war-torn memoirs of Africa include last year’s Starbuck’s pick, Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah, about his life as a boy-soldier in Sierra Leone; The Translator by Daoud Hari which gives an indepth and encompassing account involving politics and history of the genocide of Darfur by a brave and optimistic man who worked with foreign reporters and investigators; and Tears of the Desert by Halima Bashir, a young doctor who dared speak up about a vicious attack on schoolgirls by the janjaweed militia in Darfur. Read at your own risk!