Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Liberia: This Child Will be Great, by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I couldn't find any fiction from Liberia, so instead I chose this memoir written by Africa's first female president. It was interesting to read, but more impersonal than I expected. Although there were some childhood memories, mostly it was an account of the author's political life and career, and of political events in the country. There were some interesting omissions. For instance, at one point the author spent nine months in prison. Blink and you could miss it. In one paragraph she was being imprisoned, and almost in the next sentence she was released again, with almost no indication of how she felt about her time in prison and how she coped.

She married very young and divorced her abusive husband when she was still young, with four sons. Near the end of the book, she explains why she did not marry again. She says that there were romances, and one very special friend, but no details are given.

Still, I learnt a lot about the country from the book. The author is just finishing her second six year term as president, and the book was written early in her presidency. (She was elected at the end of 2005 and the book was released in 2009, before she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011). It would be interesting to read a follow-up, with more details of how she succeeded - or not - in her goals, later in her presidency, and how she coped with the Ebola crisis. And - dare I say it - maybe some more personal insights?

"This Child Will be Great" (the title was taken from something an elderly man said to Ellen's mother) was published by Harper Collins.

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