In an attempt to learn all that I can about Liberia before my trip, I have been doing quite a bit of reading and watching tons of movies/documentaries about Liberia. Just wanted to take a moment to share a few titles that I recommend.
The documentary “Liberia: America’s Stepchild” gives great insight into Liberia’s history from the “beginning” up until present day. I put “beginning” in quotation marks because the documentary (as well as many other books & movies) begins by discussing how freed American slaves founded Liberia but fails to discuss Liberian culture pre-western influence. One of my goals is to learn more about Native Liberian tribes and cultures, specifically the Vai tribe (my mom’s family was Vai). Cannes Film Festival Winner “Johnny Mad Dog” was a well written and brilliantly acted film. The movie follows a group of LURD child soldiers led by Johnny on their brutal crusade through Liberia during the war. The film also follows a young girl trying to get her amputee father & baby brother to safety amidst all the chaos. Without giving too much away I’ll just say that although this film is good, it is heartbreaking and a definite tearjerker.
Lastly, “The House at Sugar Beach” is a memoir by journalist Helene Cooper. I absolutely LOVED this book! It was educational, insightful, incredibly descriptive and funny at times. Helene describes what it was like growing up in Liberia as a privileged child. She and her family lived in a 22-room beach house, took trips to their vacation home in Spain and had butlers, cooks and chauffeurs to wait on them hand and foot. Helene describes what it was like to have her whole world turned upside by the war. In the blink of an eye Helene went from privileged to unwelcome in her own country. She discusses what it was like to watch her uncle get executed on national TV, how it felt to flee Liberia and start over in America and the shame that she felt for years about being associated with Liberia.