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This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President

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In January 2006, after the Republic of Liberia had been racked by fourteen years of brutal civil conflict, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Africa's "Iron Lady" was sworn in as president, an event that marked a tremendous turning point in the history of the West African nation. In this stirring memoir, Sirleaf shares the inside story of her rise to power, including her early childhood In January 2006, after the Republic of Liberia had been racked by fourteen years of brutal civil conflict, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Africa's "Iron Lady" was sworn in as president, an event that marked a tremendous turning point in the history of the West African nation. In this stirring memoir, Sirleaf shares the inside story of her rise to power, including her early childhood; her experiences with abuse, imprisonment, and exile; and her fight for democracy and social justice. This compelling tale of survival reveals Sirleaf's determination to succeed in multiple worlds: from her studies in the United States to her work as an international bank executive to her election campaigning in some of Liberia's most desperate and war-torn villages and neighborhoods. It is also the story of an outspoken political and social reformer who, despite danger, fought the oppression of dictators and championed change. By sharing her story, Sirleaf encourages women everywhere to pursue leadership roles at the highest levels of power, and gives us all hope that, with perseverance, we can change the world.


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In January 2006, after the Republic of Liberia had been racked by fourteen years of brutal civil conflict, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Africa's "Iron Lady" was sworn in as president, an event that marked a tremendous turning point in the history of the West African nation. In this stirring memoir, Sirleaf shares the inside story of her rise to power, including her early childhood In January 2006, after the Republic of Liberia had been racked by fourteen years of brutal civil conflict, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Africa's "Iron Lady" was sworn in as president, an event that marked a tremendous turning point in the history of the West African nation. In this stirring memoir, Sirleaf shares the inside story of her rise to power, including her early childhood; her experiences with abuse, imprisonment, and exile; and her fight for democracy and social justice. This compelling tale of survival reveals Sirleaf's determination to succeed in multiple worlds: from her studies in the United States to her work as an international bank executive to her election campaigning in some of Liberia's most desperate and war-torn villages and neighborhoods. It is also the story of an outspoken political and social reformer who, despite danger, fought the oppression of dictators and championed change. By sharing her story, Sirleaf encourages women everywhere to pursue leadership roles at the highest levels of power, and gives us all hope that, with perseverance, we can change the world.

30 review for This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I first saw Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the Jon Stewart show and knew I had to read her book. I was not disappointed. Truth is often so much better than fiction. She became the first woman president in Africa through sheer determination, great intelligence and a belief that she was needed to help her country. I learned so much about the history of Liberia. We have all heard about slaves returning to Africa and always assumed things worked out just fine. Her description of the colonial class and the I first saw Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the Jon Stewart show and knew I had to read her book. I was not disappointed. Truth is often so much better than fiction. She became the first woman president in Africa through sheer determination, great intelligence and a belief that she was needed to help her country. I learned so much about the history of Liberia. We have all heard about slaves returning to Africa and always assumed things worked out just fine. Her description of the colonial class and the discrepancy between the new settlers and the natives was a revelation to me. I loved her description of the government as the kleptocracy regime. It puts our problems in perspective. Obama is dealing with 8 years of failed economic policies and a world that lost respect for us. Ellen is dealing with an economy ruined by 16 years of civil war, an illiteracy rate of 80%. a lack of schools and basic services and a criminal class of child soldiers. I look forward to seeing what she can accomplish in the next 6 years.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tinea

    The root cause of conflict is not simply poverty but poverty brought on by exclusion. Exclusion in its broadest context: exclusion from resources, from power, from education and information, from the opportunity to better one's life. (p. 305) This is a hard review to write! I'm a little bit floored by this complicated, powerful woman. I am awed by what she has done with the adversity she overcame, and her simple but unshakeable commitment to sound, ethical governance. But I'm struck by her politi The root cause of conflict is not simply poverty but poverty brought on by exclusion. Exclusion in its broadest context: exclusion from resources, from power, from education and information, from the opportunity to better one's life. (p. 305) This is a hard review to write! I'm a little bit floored by this complicated, powerful woman. I am awed by what she has done with the adversity she overcame, and her simple but unshakeable commitment to sound, ethical governance. But I'm struck by her politicking, her profession (banker), and her equally unshakeable strategic drive. I don't mean to posit these striking traits as "bad" things in contrast to the awe-inspiring; just to suggest that this woman commands deep respect but not necessarily sympathy. She's a powerhouse. This book is worth reading. Thoughtfully. I learned much too much about recent Liberian history in it, and it would behoove me to read something less biased to understand Sirleaf critically. I'll direct the rest of my thoughts toward the engaging discussion going on in the Great African Reads book club.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    I have so many reactions to Sirleaf's memoir, it's hard to know where to begin! What a complex, thought-provoking book. First - I learned a great deal about my own ignorance. It had never occurred to me, until reading the beginning of This Child Will be Great, that the African-Americans who settled in Liberia in the early nineteenth century were imperialists. My sense of what colonialism is (not unreasonably) tied to whiteness, particularly when I think about the development of the American natio I have so many reactions to Sirleaf's memoir, it's hard to know where to begin! What a complex, thought-provoking book. First - I learned a great deal about my own ignorance. It had never occurred to me, until reading the beginning of This Child Will be Great, that the African-Americans who settled in Liberia in the early nineteenth century were imperialists. My sense of what colonialism is (not unreasonably) tied to whiteness, particularly when I think about the development of the American nation at the same time that African Americans were leaving the U.S. for Africa. But there's no question that the actions of those same African Americans, in forming Liberia out of the indigenous homelands of countless other communities, were the actions of colonizers. That brought home to me the vagaries of colonialism, and how colonialism is almost like a bacteria, an organism that seeks to replicate itself over and over in a handy host. Second - For all that I learned about Liberia, particularly Liberia's history in the late twentieth century, I felt as if I was only learning a very small part of what there is to know. That no doubts rests upon the fact that I am - that one book can never fully tell any story. But it's also linked to - Third - the book's author, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is Liberia's current president. As such, this is a politician's biography - it's measured and careful and while she does admit mistakes and apologize for false steps, there's a narrative drive to prove worthiness that I think is par for the course in the biography of any sitting or past-politician. (I thought of Obama's two books, and how the second lost some of the authenticity of the first, because, by the second, he was a politician, and had constituents to speak to directly. And I thought of HIlary Clinton's autobiography, issued after she'd left the White House, and how every 'truth' in there was geared to make the best of her life and the challenges she'd face, not to mention to rationalize decisions like staying with Bill.) Still - and Fourth - this is a book that presents a unique perspective on the challenges of governing Liberia, and on the wider challenges facing West Africa. It's the last two chapters that I found most absorbing, where Sirleaf lays out her agenda, defends some decisions already made, and speaks frankly about the problems that still need to be solved. Perhaps what's most telling about those chapters is that the "I" of the rest of the book is gone - it's no longer about Sirleaf, it's about Liberia, and it's about Liberia's neighbors, and the transformation is telling. A fascinating book, if frustrating in places. eta: One other thing that was frustrating? Sirleaf argues that African Americans owe Liberia particular help and support - that there is a special connection between the two groups. She says she understands that for much of Liberia's history, African Americans were busy fighting their own battles for social justice, but now is the time for them to step up because things in the US, for all intents and purposes, fixed. I don't doubt that, looking at the United States from the perspective of Liberia, it seems like African Americans are in a remarkably comfortable spot. But to so completely dismiss the systemic, institutional, continuing racism that has such an impact upon the lives of so many African Americans? Incredibly problematic.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kavita

    Don't get fooled by the word "memoir" in the title. This is not a memoir but an essay about the history and financial and administrative issues of Liberia in the recent past. Ellen Sirleaf's book is not about herself but about Liberia. While it is detailed, there is such a thing as being too detailed and most readers aren't looking for debt figures and how much financing is given to each sector in Liberia. The last part of the book reads like an essay on political promotion. So Liberia. If asked Don't get fooled by the word "memoir" in the title. This is not a memoir but an essay about the history and financial and administrative issues of Liberia in the recent past. Ellen Sirleaf's book is not about herself but about Liberia. While it is detailed, there is such a thing as being too detailed and most readers aren't looking for debt figures and how much financing is given to each sector in Liberia. The last part of the book reads like an essay on political promotion. So Liberia. If asked to pick a country that USA has completely screwed up for their own nefarious purposes, most people would choose Afghanistan. But that is nothing compared to what they did to Liberia. After using Africans to bolster their economy and work for free in the America, some leaders decide that now that the blacks have been emancipated, they really can't stay with white people *gasp*. So they send them away back to Africa and bully the native Africans into giving away land for the new settlers. Not content with this, they encourage the settlers to take control, leading to a huge split in society with the newly returned settler class, fresh with lovely new ideas about slavery and colonialism, try their hand at copying their erstwhile masters. And succeed. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and there is retaliation. And so on. Then civil war. America still played games and backed the militant regimes, a task it does remarkably well in the world. But at the same time, utterly refused to help with controlling the civil war or to help the people. But unfortunately, as Sirleaf points out, most of Africa cannot yet show the finger to the West, so they must put up with the unfair demands until the country can stand on its feet. Coming back to Sirleaf, she is an awesome woman who has suffered greatly and she is very inspirational. I think she is completely right in focusing on education, gender equality and creating a liberal market aimed at development as primary goals. I am especially glad that she thinks that women's rights must be an important focus for any future of Africa in general, and Liberia in particular. So, impressed with the woman, but not so impressed with the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    This was a rather interesting read, but it had certain considerable disadvantages which hurt it. Primarily, the style of the writing was rather flat and problematic. I suppose Madame Sirleaf is an excellent economist, but I'm afraid she's an indifferent writer. The topic was fascinating, but it was hurt badly by her writing an economics paper, instead of a book. Secondly, I felt sometimes that she was, perhaps entirely subconsciously, writing a propaganda manifesto. It wasn't blatant, or terribly This was a rather interesting read, but it had certain considerable disadvantages which hurt it. Primarily, the style of the writing was rather flat and problematic. I suppose Madame Sirleaf is an excellent economist, but I'm afraid she's an indifferent writer. The topic was fascinating, but it was hurt badly by her writing an economics paper, instead of a book. Secondly, I felt sometimes that she was, perhaps entirely subconsciously, writing a propaganda manifesto. It wasn't blatant, or terribly off-putting, but it did feel like something one might present on one's presidential campaign and say "look at me, I'm pretty awesome, aren't I?" Therefore, two stars. It was okay because the subject of the history and rebuilding of Liberia (about which I'd like to hear more, with less numbers of electricity poles and more story) is a relatively new one to me, and quite interesting. Also, I like biographies of strong women.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    A profound political memoir that captures the rich history of Liberia and its ties to America, the history of the political and social unrest that led to civil war, and the economic climate. President Sirleaf was an outspoken career woman who was often shunned by her male counterparts and at one point, jailed and forced into exile. Though she grew up with the privileged few in Liberia and had German lineage, her family also extended to the indigenous Liberian ethnic groups and in this book, she A profound political memoir that captures the rich history of Liberia and its ties to America, the history of the political and social unrest that led to civil war, and the economic climate. President Sirleaf was an outspoken career woman who was often shunned by her male counterparts and at one point, jailed and forced into exile. Though she grew up with the privileged few in Liberia and had German lineage, her family also extended to the indigenous Liberian ethnic groups and in this book, she discusses the effects of slavery upon a society. There are a few instances where she mentions some very personal and surprising details about her life, but this account, written by a head of state, is mostly a political and historical one. What I liked about it were the behind-the-scenes snapshots that involved political heads, warlords, and the international community.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I saw President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speak at the institution where I work a few years ago, and found her story to be incredibly inspiring. I was hoping the book would be more of the same. While inspiration can be found here, it is often bogged down with tedious economic detail (Sirleaf was in banking and economics) and acronyms like you would not believe. I definitely learned some things, and I think that kept it at 3 stars for me. I don't think I was aware of anything going on in Liberia, eve I saw President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speak at the institution where I work a few years ago, and found her story to be incredibly inspiring. I was hoping the book would be more of the same. While inspiration can be found here, it is often bogged down with tedious economic detail (Sirleaf was in banking and economics) and acronyms like you would not believe. I definitely learned some things, and I think that kept it at 3 stars for me. I don't think I was aware of anything going on in Liberia, ever. Blame my lack of knowledge of the world, blame the lack of American media's focus, but a lot happened that I knew nothing about. Most of the violence is recent and around the same time as Rwanda, but I knew nothing. I also didn't know anything about how Liberia was founded, and was very surprised to find out the connection between the United States and Liberia's original colonies. These connections still have some impact today. Sirleaf herself was greatly influenced by the United States. This is where she was educated, and she says she learned more about her country from the Harvard library than she'd ever learned while growing up. She was even in the states when JFK was assassinated. Little factoid and case in point: "Robert E. Lee, the American Confederate Civil War general, freed most of his slaves before the war and offered to pay their expenses to Liberia." From the unification of Liberia: "We are all of us Liberians." There is some great fodder here about leadership, and that seemed to be what I honed in on. From Sirleaf's own wisdom: "So often it is the small decisions in life that end up shaping our future the most." "I looked around and saw the lives of so many Liberian women, all of these incredibly hardworking market women and housewives and mothers, and what I saw was that their lives were drudgery, a simple trudging from day to day to day. I did not want that; that was not the life for me." "We always felt that if anything really terrible began to happen, if ever things went seriously awry, America would come to our aid. America was our great father, our patron saint. It would never let us suffer. That's what so many of us in Liberia thought. But then we found out that everyone has to stand on his own." "People - usually women - sometimes ask me if, during my long climb up the career ladder, I ever bumped into any glass ceilings or encountered resistance to my taking a seat at the table because I am a woman and African. My answer is that I am sure there have been those who suspected me of being a token or who resented my having the positions I had. But I was usually too busy to worry about them." "In this global age individuals are sometimes tempted to believe they have no power, not even collectively. This is not true. The public can make a difference if it is willing to take a position and stand up for a cause in which it believes. Against a united and committed public, even the harshest of governments cannot stand." "This is the way of the world, of human nature, and if you want to lead, you have to accept that there will be conscious attempts to push you into oblivion. You have to be prepared to be very lonely sometimes." "Progress may be slowed by oppression, but it will not be stopped." "Men have failed us,' people said over and over again. 'Men are too violent, too prone to make war. Women are less corrupt, less likely to be focused on getting fancy cars and fancy home for themselves." "Civilized nations must not be indifferent to any conflict - internal or external - regardless of the factors that fuel it."

  8. 5 out of 5

    di

    This is not so much a memoir (or even a biography) of Sirleaf as it is a history of Liberia. Sirleaf's telling of her homeland's bloody past is informative, fair, & insightful. It will be interesting for me to follow Liberia's progress now. Sirleaf becoming president is probably one of those times when a ray of light shines down from the heavens. I rated this 4 stars only because I was hoping for more of a personal account--something along the line of "Left to Tell" or "Life & Death in Shanghai, This is not so much a memoir (or even a biography) of Sirleaf as it is a history of Liberia. Sirleaf's telling of her homeland's bloody past is informative, fair, & insightful. It will be interesting for me to follow Liberia's progress now. Sirleaf becoming president is probably one of those times when a ray of light shines down from the heavens. I rated this 4 stars only because I was hoping for more of a personal account--something along the line of "Left to Tell" or "Life & Death in Shanghai," both of which are about strong women who survive horrific regimes. Sirleaf covers the political history, especially her own involvement, & I learned a ton, but there was no connection to her for me. For instance, she barely mentions her time in prison, although she says it was the most terrified she had ever felt. Her private life is mostly kept private. The writing, while dry at times, was more than adequate, and I am left with a great respect for Sirleaf. While I don't relate to her on many levels, I appreciate her valuable contribution!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    In her first run for President her opponent's slogan was "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, so I will vote for him". Yikes! She lost that election (through fraud and intimidation) - but the courage to run in such an atmosphere is amazing! The book is a summary of her life - not particularly warm and full of personal details, but an overview of Liberia before, during, and after some of the worst dictators and warmongerers in world history. She never shrinks from her mistakes (at first she support In her first run for President her opponent's slogan was "He killed my ma, he killed my pa, so I will vote for him". Yikes! She lost that election (through fraud and intimidation) - but the courage to run in such an atmosphere is amazing! The book is a summary of her life - not particularly warm and full of personal details, but an overview of Liberia before, during, and after some of the worst dictators and warmongerers in world history. She never shrinks from her mistakes (at first she supported Charles Taylor because the dictator at the time was also bad for the country), but tells things the way she saw them at the time. A remarkable person.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abbe

    From Publishers Weekly Forbes lists Sirleaf, the 23rd president of Liberia and the first elected female president on the African continent, among the 100 Most Powerful Women in 2008. In and out of government, in and out of exile, but consistent in her commitment to Liberia, Sirleaf in her memoir reveals herself to be among the most resilient, determined and courageous as well. She writes with modesty in a calm and measured tone. While her account includes a happy childhood and an unhappy marria From Publishers Weekly Forbes lists Sirleaf, the 23rd president of Liberia and the first elected female president on the African continent, among the 100 Most Powerful Women in 2008. In and out of government, in and out of exile, but consistent in her commitment to Liberia, Sirleaf in her memoir reveals herself to be among the most resilient, determined and courageous as well. She writes with modesty in a calm and measured tone. While her account includes a happy childhood and an unhappy marriage, the book is politically, not personally, focused as she (and Liberia) go through the disastrous presidencies of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor. Sirleaf's training as an economist and her employment (e.g., in banking, as minister of finance in Liberia, and in U.N. development programs) informs the perspective from which she views internal Liberian history (e.g., the tensions between the settler class and the indigenous people) and Liberia's international relations. Although her focus is thoroughly on Liberia, the content is more widely instructive, particularly her account of the role of the Economic Community of West African States. (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From Africa’s first elected female president, Sirleaf chronicles her rise from an abused young wife and mother to a woman with a career in government finance and international banking to the president of Liberia since 2006. Sirleaf confronted corruption and incompetence through several Liberian governments and suffered imprisonment and exile for her controversial positions before ultimately returning and challenging the long and troubled history of her nation. Liberia was created by the U.S. to repatriate former slaves, creating a tension between Americo-Liberians and indigenous peoples that continues. She recounts her struggles at home and abroad; she watched dictator Samuel Doe and later Charles Taylor destroy Liberia while she continued to criticize U.S. involvement with corrupt regimes. Having no colonial power to overcome, Sirleaf contends that Liberia has often struggled to develop and maintain a sense of true national integration, something she has sought to achieve as she has worked to bring economic and social stability to her civil-war-torn nation. An inspiring inside look at a nation struggling to rebuild itself and the woman now behind those efforts. --Vanessa Bush

  11. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I knew vaguely of Liberia before reading This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President--I had a distant memory of reading that it was established as a home for resettled slaves, and then I remembered reading of its violent civil war and its government's horrible support for the devastating war in Sierra Leone. Other than that, as with most of the African continent, I was woefully ignorant. I definitely would have had trouble identifying it on a map or na I knew vaguely of Liberia before reading This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President--I had a distant memory of reading that it was established as a home for resettled slaves, and then I remembered reading of its violent civil war and its government's horrible support for the devastating war in Sierra Leone. Other than that, as with most of the African continent, I was woefully ignorant. I definitely would have had trouble identifying it on a map or naming its current leader. Well, now I am much better informed, courtesy of the Nobel Peace Prize winning president herself. I have read reviews of the book that critique it for heavy use of acronyms and clunky writing. I frankly wasn't bothered by either factor. I don't expect non-fiction in general to read like literature, so I am not disappointed when it fails to do so. On the rare occasions when it does, I am just pleasantly surprised. There were acronyms for political parties and international organizations when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf discussed them, but I didn't find them to be a distraction. I had no trouble staying fully engaged in the tale of Sirleaf's life and of Liberia's history, which are both fascinating. I came away with a sense of just how much one courageous person can accomplish, if she or he is bright and able to access education. Sirleaf is a truly remarkable character, not perfect, but willing to own up to her flaws. I will follow the history of this nation moving forward in a way that I had never been interested in doing to this point. I hope that Sirleaf's dreams and plans of moving her country forward through education, sound planning and management, and a commitment to democratic and ethical governance will come to fruition and move her country into a position of greater significance and leadership in Africa and the world as a whole. The world could use more women like her in positions of power and influence!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Camilla

    This book provided great insight into the history of Liberia and the sadness that is Africa - a great continent still struggling and suffering with corruption and greed. Sirleaf's commitment to her country and to what she believes in is inspiring. I loved the honesty with which she acknowledges some of her great mistakes and the humility she brings to her leadership through her constant recognition of the need to lead for those that have nothing or have less or have been through great hardships. This book provided great insight into the history of Liberia and the sadness that is Africa - a great continent still struggling and suffering with corruption and greed. Sirleaf's commitment to her country and to what she believes in is inspiring. I loved the honesty with which she acknowledges some of her great mistakes and the humility she brings to her leadership through her constant recognition of the need to lead for those that have nothing or have less or have been through great hardships. Her memoirs are honest and full of factual political information. I would have liked to have more insight into the person that is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf not yet the president of Liberia. This was an inspiring and intriguing book from a great African leader.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Msgrv Csicablenet

    Reading this story was long and tideous for me-I think most of the story is summed up in the back with her Inaugural Speech. The fact hat she is the first woman to be Preisdent of Africa is a great accomplsihment in a Country that degrades women. She has the capacity to over come many obstalcles. I did not like that fact that she was seperated for so many years from her children, all except one that was with her a great deal of the time. The book is a history of Liberia during great turmoil and s Reading this story was long and tideous for me-I think most of the story is summed up in the back with her Inaugural Speech. The fact hat she is the first woman to be Preisdent of Africa is a great accomplsihment in a Country that degrades women. She has the capacity to over come many obstalcles. I did not like that fact that she was seperated for so many years from her children, all except one that was with her a great deal of the time. The book is a history of Liberia during great turmoil and slaughtering of millions.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    This was my first memoir, and while I enjoyed it, it took me a while to get through it. There is some pretty heavy alphabet soup in the middle of the book, but as soon as she decides to run for president in 2005 it really takes off and get's interesting. Johnson Sirleaf includes a history of modern Liberia, with a lot of international economics thrown in for good measure. I appreciated her unsentimental attitude and international perspective. I would absolutely recommend this book, though if you' This was my first memoir, and while I enjoyed it, it took me a while to get through it. There is some pretty heavy alphabet soup in the middle of the book, but as soon as she decides to run for president in 2005 it really takes off and get's interesting. Johnson Sirleaf includes a history of modern Liberia, with a lot of international economics thrown in for good measure. I appreciated her unsentimental attitude and international perspective. I would absolutely recommend this book, though if you're truly interested in learning the material, give yourself some time to get through it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    My understanding of Liberian history has been superficial, but this book helped me to understand the complexities of Liberia's past. It also helped me to fully appreciate that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the right woman, in the right place, at the right time. I pray that Liberia's next chapter is one of reconciliation and prosperity. My understanding of Liberian history has been superficial, but this book helped me to understand the complexities of Liberia's past. It also helped me to fully appreciate that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the right woman, in the right place, at the right time. I pray that Liberia's next chapter is one of reconciliation and prosperity.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    well-told history of Liberia from a very different view of West Africa than we're used to hearing from Western figures and media but this is very much a book written by an incumbent politician. Bias, grandstanding, slanted language, overall sense of things missing... worth reading. Makes me want to go to Liberia. well-told history of Liberia from a very different view of West Africa than we're used to hearing from Western figures and media but this is very much a book written by an incumbent politician. Bias, grandstanding, slanted language, overall sense of things missing... worth reading. Makes me want to go to Liberia.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Caleb

    I enjoyed this memoir immensely! I agree with Madam President Sirleaf’s assessment of the Western civilization having no desire of economic independence of Liberia 🇱🇷 or any other African nation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Online

    IRON LADY Erin Aubry Kaplan Review of This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President By Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (with Kim McLarin) Harper The 2006 election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s first woman president—the first in all of Africa!—is one of the new uncontested bright spots in the turbulent recent history of that country. But personal triumph is not the point of this memoir, despite its title. Sirleaf instead narrates the fascinating but frequently d IRON LADY Erin Aubry Kaplan Review of This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President By Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (with Kim McLarin) Harper The 2006 election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia’s first woman president—the first in all of Africa!—is one of the new uncontested bright spots in the turbulent recent history of that country. But personal triumph is not the point of this memoir, despite its title. Sirleaf instead narrates the fascinating but frequently disheartening story of Liberia itself. From its improbable origins as a new settlement for freed American slaves in the 1800s to its descent into the hopelessly “balkanized chaos” of civil war more than 100 years later, Sirleaf tells it all in a steady and unsentimental voice, fueled throughout by a certain optimism, even in Liberia’s darkest hours. Not that she neglects her own part in the story: The trajectory of her life is described with the same passion and attention to detail with which she describes everything else. And what a life it is, one that ultimately measures up to the greatness predicted for Sirleaf by a somewhat anonymous old man who visited her parents when she was born. Highlights—or lowlights—include becoming a self-made power broker in international finance and surviving imprisonment by a Liberian dictator while colleagues are slaughtered around her. But it is concern, almost obsession, for Liberia’s future that drives Sirleaf in all her endeavors. Clearly, the “child” that marches toward destiny is not just Sirleaf, but her still-emerging native land: As it goes, so goes she. She does try her luck elsewhere in the world. On the way to the presidency, she has a brilliant career with institutions such as the World Bank, Citibank, the Equator Bank and the United Nations. Yet time and again she quits those posts to follow a path back to Liberia, determined to fulfill a long-standing dream of helping her country achieve peace, prosperity and stability. Often she returns home against the advice of family and friends, who think she’s “cuckoo” to leave the material comfort and international prestige (to say nothing of the personal safety) of private-sector jobs. But Sirleaf is determined; it’s not for nothing she’s called “Iron Lady.” Sometimes information overshadows the storytelling. At points This Child reads less like a memoir and more like a history primer, stump speech or opaque analysis from a politician who, after all, is still working to sell her vision. And what happens to Sirleaf’s four children, who all but disappear after the first 50 pages? Perhaps she was too wedded to her cause to devote much to the parental scene, but I’d like to hear her talk about that, to hear her version of the impossible sacrifices many women make to be effective in their chosen fields. Sirleaf’s great talent as a narrator is that she doesn’t waffle. She admits to initially liking Liberian revolutionaries who later morph into despots; she admires Kofi Annan but doesn’t excuse his neglect of the Rwandan genocide. She praises the U.S. for the educational and work opportunities it provides her, but takes American governments (and Jimmy Carter) to task for supporting the vicious Liberian regimes of William Tolbert and Charles Taylor. But Sirleaf never underestimates the enormity of the task of leading her country into the freedom implied in its name. Becoming president in postwar Liberia was pure euphoria, she says, the most she could hope for. At the same time, “Despair and resignation stared many of our citizens in the face,” she writes. “All of this was as true on inauguration day as it had been the day before and as it would be the day after.” Wise words, reminding us that hope is far too complicated a thing for politics, or even historic elections, to fully express. --- ERIN AUBRY KAPLAN is a freelance writer and a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times opinion section.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Sirleaf is the first female president of Liberia. I haven't read many memoirs, so I don't have much to compare it to. In this case, Sirleaf's story reads more as a series of dry events that could be one long bulleted list. I wonder if this writing style is a reflection of her time spent in the business world, where that type of writing is more common than a sentimental style. Either way, as I reflect on all she has encountered, and what she has accomplished, it is apparent that she is quite the a Sirleaf is the first female president of Liberia. I haven't read many memoirs, so I don't have much to compare it to. In this case, Sirleaf's story reads more as a series of dry events that could be one long bulleted list. I wonder if this writing style is a reflection of her time spent in the business world, where that type of writing is more common than a sentimental style. Either way, as I reflect on all she has encountered, and what she has accomplished, it is apparent that she is quite the amazing human being. Here is a series of her passages that spoke to me, almost as tidbits of advice: Still, once I took the position, I had stepped into a stream that would carry me along toward the future of my professional development. So often it is the small decisions in life that end up shaping our future the most. p 32 The learning here - pay attention to your small decisions as they may have bigger repercussions than you may originally anticipate. All of this I said, but in the end, it was really one word - idiots - that got me into trouble. That was the word that did it. That was the word that they really, really did not like. p 123 The learning here - people may focus on one or two points and ignore the rest of your message. The theme of education, or lack there-of, is common when defining a gap for Liberians in this book. I wonder if this is why the word "idiot" offended so much - many of the regime did not have much of a formal education, and did not want to appear weak because of it. Leadership has many challenges, and those challenges are serious. Too often people, in their eagerness to stand and shout 'Follow me!,' neglect to consider the downside. They do not, for example, consider the possibility of ostracism. But the truth is that if you want to lead and be hailed, you must also be prepared to be ostracized, because it surely will happen at some point in your career. The learning here - there are ups and downs to any situation. Leaders may be glorified on one hand, but there will be people wanting to tear you down and you must be prepared for both aspects to move ahead. On the challenges Sileaf faced as newly-elected president: "On that glorious day Liberians had not experienced government provided electric power for more than sixteen years... Pipe-borne water was nonexistent in the city center and parts beyond. Civil servants' salaries were in arrears and woefully inadequate at any rate. Our schools were in ruins, not just physically, but also in terms of the loss of trained teachers. Mortality rates among all sectors of our population were frighteningly high. Our hospitals lacked equipment, drugs, and most critically, doctors..." p 273 The learning here - it would be difficult enough becoming leader of a developed nation today, and yet knowing the state of Liberia and what she faced, Sirleaf fought for her election to bring change to these situations. Wow. What a strong, brave woman!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Teji

    Centennial Book Club: 2/4/13: Teji This book is both memoir and history lesson. While the writing is not great and is too repetitive in many spots, it is certainly a griping story. Sirleaf is definitely a strong-willed, formidable woman-- and a survivor. I do wish that she had waited until after her presidency to write this book--I think it will be interesting to contrast what she hoped to accomplish with what actually happens. I will follow the rest of her presidency (she recently won a second 6 Centennial Book Club: 2/4/13: Teji This book is both memoir and history lesson. While the writing is not great and is too repetitive in many spots, it is certainly a griping story. Sirleaf is definitely a strong-willed, formidable woman-- and a survivor. I do wish that she had waited until after her presidency to write this book--I think it will be interesting to contrast what she hoped to accomplish with what actually happens. I will follow the rest of her presidency (she recently won a second 6-year term) with interest. I did experience one slight continuity problem where what she says happened doesn't match what she then describes happening: " 'Tell them I will come, but, given my complexion, I need protection. They must send someone for me.' I don't know if Green ever delivered the message, but no one came. A few hours later my friend suggested that it was best that he escort me. / The streets were wild. As we drove through them, I held my breath. At one point the truck swerved into a gas station where a crowd was milling excitedly about. As the soldiers leapt out to fill the tank of the car, someone pounded on the roof and peered into the window, demanding, 'Who you got in there?' / I knew it was not an idle question, and I knew the soldiers would not necessarily protect me if the crowd wanted blood. One of the soldiers responded, 'Ellen Johnson Sirleaf! Taking her to see the man!' " p95. So, here is my problem: if Doe never sent anyone for her, and her friend was the one her escorted her to the mansion…from where did those soldiers come? Quotes: (view spoiler)[ "The only problem at school was that some of my classmates teased me about the fairness of my complexion. They said I was too light to be a real African and called me Red Pumpkin, a name that hurt me to the bottom of my soul." p27 "The settlers of modern-day Liberia decided they would plant their feet in Africa but keep their faces turned squarely toward the United States. This stance would trigger a profound alienation between themselves and the indigenous peoples upon whose shores they had arrived..." p6 "But the ECOMOG intervention was also a flawed operation in some ways. Much critical analysis has been written, and there remains considerable dissent about not only the legality and methods of the intervention but about whether ECOWAS shortened or actually prolonged the conflict in the long run." p190 "These were the violent years that brutalized and made brutes of an entire generation of our young people." p207 (hide spoiler)]

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jaspreet

    I first picked up been enjoying This Child Will be Great:Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President written by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the World Party Reading Challenge. In the original format, the country for the month of June was Liberia. I began reading in June, but I did not complete the book until last night. Part of my slow reading progress is the density of the book and the other is that I had other reading commitments. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It is both P I first picked up been enjoying This Child Will be Great:Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President written by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the World Party Reading Challenge. In the original format, the country for the month of June was Liberia. I began reading in June, but I did not complete the book until last night. Part of my slow reading progress is the density of the book and the other is that I had other reading commitments. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It is both President Sirleaf's personal story and the history of Liberia. I learned a lot about the history of the country. A few highlights are mentioned below. I was struck by the positive light in which President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were portrayed. Because of the work I do and my political standpoint, I am very often critical of the former president. I enjoyed reading an outsider's perspective on how the former president handled foreign relations. It was also interesting to read about Persident Sirleaf's interactions with former president Jimmy Carter. Those sections of the book illustrated how much of a difference there can be in international perception and domestic perception of presidents. I imagine that there is also a difference in how US leaders are perceived from region to region. Another part of the book I really enjoyed was President Sirleaf's experience running for office. I have some interest in running for public office myself, so I enjoyed hearing her accounts of how she tried to run for office in a way that would allow her to build a coalition with her opponents. The ways in which she utilized knowledge and expertise from the international community was also insightful. The thought of campaigning in the United States is daunting enough for me. I could not imagine trying to campaign in a country where where the weather determines accessibility of many areas. Finally, I also enjoyed President Sirleaf's reflection on how being a woman impacted her experience. I was especially intrigued by how President Sirleaf believed marriage and parenthood influenced her journey. She got married very young and has been unmarried for the duration of her professional career. One thing I noticed in the memoir is how few stories there were of her interactions with her children. In her inauguration speech, I found myself nodding vigorously at her promise to invest in the education of young woman.

  22. 5 out of 5

    XXX

    The book was better than I feared, although maybe not quite what I wanted in ticking off the "memoir of a leader of a fragile state" on my "to read" list. On the pro side, EJS is pretty candid about many difficult periods of her life, even eg the moment when her mother is dying and EJS is struck by a sudden need to "go to the bathroom" (euphemism, obvi) and thus misses her mother's last words. Her focus also reveals, subtly, things like the great influence of the US even though of course the coun The book was better than I feared, although maybe not quite what I wanted in ticking off the "memoir of a leader of a fragile state" on my "to read" list. On the pro side, EJS is pretty candid about many difficult periods of her life, even eg the moment when her mother is dying and EJS is struck by a sudden need to "go to the bathroom" (euphemism, obvi) and thus misses her mother's last words. Her focus also reveals, subtly, things like the great influence of the US even though of course the country was largely indifferent to the Liberian civil war. e.g. when the US sent a few ships off the coast during one part of the civil war & she describes the reaction as exuberant (of course, people were let down, despite US spokespeople stating that the ships were only there for Americans). Also, even if it's a bit stylized, her descriptions of the chaotic emotions one feels when a coup happens were revealing. Still, as one would expect from a politician & Nobel Peace Prize winner (or her ghostwriter) the book is a bit... kitschy at times. e.g. at the end of the book she describes her feelings as saying that she wanted to find a way to unite Liberians from the conflict but not make that so singular a focus that she forgets the everyday problems of everyday people. OK...? More policy detail (other than just getting a "fairer deal" from Firestone, "providing jobs") is really too much to ask I suppose, but the book would have been better for it. More details on the compromises of politics would have been very useful, too.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Liberia Now

    Quite a few people have an impressive pedigree and a cabinet full of notable awards. But the story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is unlike most other stories. Even though she enjoyed a relatively happy childhood, she came to know hardship at a young age, especially after her father suffered a stroke. This was one of several misfortunes that young Ellen would encounter. At age seventeen she was married to an abusive husband, yet through it all she refused to become only a victim. As Ellen Johnson Sirle Quite a few people have an impressive pedigree and a cabinet full of notable awards. But the story of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is unlike most other stories. Even though she enjoyed a relatively happy childhood, she came to know hardship at a young age, especially after her father suffered a stroke. This was one of several misfortunes that young Ellen would encounter. At age seventeen she was married to an abusive husband, yet through it all she refused to become only a victim. As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, encounters trial after trial you learn about her character, which is painstakingly formed into something beautiful. Yet, it is not only her story, which we learn about in this honest and inspirational memoir, but the story of Liberia itself. From its founding in 1822 by freed American slaves to the 1980 military coup that splintered the country to the horror and total anarchy of civil war which devastated and destroyed her beloved nation, President Sirleaf gives a compelling account of where Liberia has been and where hopefully it is headed. For anyone who ever hopes to begin to understand Liberia, this is the place to begin. President Johnson Sirleaf’s ability to see and clearly distill the big picture of Liberia past, present and future is a gift to us all. This venerable lady of Liberia is one which all of us could learn many life lessons from and at the same time learn a little more about the exceptional land of liberty known as Liberia.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Juhi

    I really liked this book. The best thing that I liked about this book is that this is not just her own story but also the story of Liberia as country which I am sorry to say but I didn’t know much before this book. I came across this lady while reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book where she mentioned her and I looked her up. While there a few books about her, I chose to hear the autobiography to understand her life and her thoughts. And what a remarkable life it is. Firstly, I had never read anything b I really liked this book. The best thing that I liked about this book is that this is not just her own story but also the story of Liberia as country which I am sorry to say but I didn’t know much before this book. I came across this lady while reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book where she mentioned her and I looked her up. While there a few books about her, I chose to hear the autobiography to understand her life and her thoughts. And what a remarkable life it is. Firstly, I had never read anything by an African author before, so the environment she talks about is so different to understand. I come from India so I understand the challenges of a developing country. But Liberia has a lot of colonial baggage which is different from any other country that I know of. The last part of the book where she is talking of the decades of civil war were very difficult to read. War is the reality of the world we live in. But Liberia is out of it and I hope it never goes back to it. It also gave me hope that maybe all is not lost in other war zones in the world. While discussing this book with a colleague, she mentioned that the thing with autobiography is that politicians are rarely criticize themselves and that might as well be true in this case. But still I would encourage everyone to read this book. You will come out richer in knowledge. And that for me is the biggest point of reading, to experience something out of the ordinary.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Susan Earle

    This is one of the most amazing books I've read in the last little while. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first woman to be elected President of an African nation. A brilliant economist and banker, she has overcome many obstacles, personally, professionally and politically. She was elected President of Liberia in 2006, inheriting a country devastated by 14 years of civil war. With a servant's heart she has worked hard to bring the people of her country together, to move forward on a path of healing This is one of the most amazing books I've read in the last little while. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first woman to be elected President of an African nation. A brilliant economist and banker, she has overcome many obstacles, personally, professionally and politically. She was elected President of Liberia in 2006, inheriting a country devastated by 14 years of civil war. With a servant's heart she has worked hard to bring the people of her country together, to move forward on a path of healing and rebuilding that nation. Very few leaders could have accomplished what she has. In November of 2011, she was re-elected with 90.7% of the vote. Her story is one that should be read by everyone. My favourite quote comes near the end of the book. "One other question people sometimes like to ask is whether I believe I would have accomplished more or less as a man. I don't have to hesitate to answer that one -- I would have accomplished far, far less. I would have been, really, just another man. I think that as a woman I was an exception, and being an exception gave me both the visibility and the drive to succeed. I was ahead of my time, but I am no longer alone. We are breaking barriers daily; in another decade there will be hundreds of women in real positions of leadership all over Africa and all over the world." This is an inspiring read for all.

  26. 4 out of 5

    BookSweetie

    This book is less personal in tone than many memoirs, but a reader will still learn much about this one person's life and her reaction to events in Liberia and the world. The book is measured in tone in a way that you might expect from someone who became an economist and politician -- from the force of her will and spirit as much as anything as she certainly faced many obstacles that would have derailed many of weaker heart. If this is read with that in mind, the author Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wi This book is less personal in tone than many memoirs, but a reader will still learn much about this one person's life and her reaction to events in Liberia and the world. The book is measured in tone in a way that you might expect from someone who became an economist and politician -- from the force of her will and spirit as much as anything as she certainly faced many obstacles that would have derailed many of weaker heart. If this is read with that in mind, the author Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will reveal a heck of a lot of detail about events that most readers will not have more than a fuzzy recollection of. A reader will become a more informed citizen of the world-- in this global age, that matters. My hope is that her desire to help her homeland of Liberia will not be corrupted by the trappings of power that seem to have swirled around freely and dangerously in the last few decades in that corner of the world. She presents as an honest, caring and competent leader, driven to make a positive difference. She was Liberia's first woman minister of finance. She also worked for Citibank, the United Nations, and World Bank. In her role as the first female president in an African country, she has huge expectations upon her shoulders.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brianne

    This is an extraordinary account of an extraordinary women. What President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been through and has experienced in her lifetime is really something. What she has survived through is remarkable. The fact that her life has become what it is is truly a testament to the glory of God. Liberia is blessed to have her as its president. What's more, President Sirleaf is a relative of my husband. So reading this book was personal; numerous names mentioned were familiar to me, or even This is an extraordinary account of an extraordinary women. What President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been through and has experienced in her lifetime is really something. What she has survived through is remarkable. The fact that her life has become what it is is truly a testament to the glory of God. Liberia is blessed to have her as its president. What's more, President Sirleaf is a relative of my husband. So reading this book was personal; numerous names mentioned were familiar to me, or even close relatives. This book provides insight into the government with clarity that I've never before been privy to. It makes me want to learn more about colonialism and its effects. It also stirs within me the desire to support the postive work of President Sirleaf and others like her who are undergoing the heavy tasks of creating honest, peaceful governments and improving the lives of people in countries that have been devastated by war and evil. God bless you, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Phillips family loves you!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sadie

    I often am confronted with people and events that are a big deal and yet I've never heard about them. This is the case with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I suppose in the back of my mind if I try really hard I can remember some talk about Liberia's president and the fact that she is the first female president for the continent of Africa, but it wasn't until my Yale graduation last year when she was presented with an honorary degree that I realized I honestly knew nothing about her or her countries hist I often am confronted with people and events that are a big deal and yet I've never heard about them. This is the case with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I suppose in the back of my mind if I try really hard I can remember some talk about Liberia's president and the fact that she is the first female president for the continent of Africa, but it wasn't until my Yale graduation last year when she was presented with an honorary degree that I realized I honestly knew nothing about her or her countries history. I'm so glad I finally had a chance to education myself a little more. This is an incredibly memoir about the constant action and fight for justice in her country from a very intelligent, talented, and strong women. She tells the story primarily or her rise in politics in the country. The coup that nearly toppled her country, the bloodshed, the jailings etc. A very interesting read about a country and a women I knew very little about.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    This is not the best-written memoir that I've ever read. President Sirleaf spent much of her career working for corporations and large institutions, and that shows in her writing style which has a tendency to read like a development programme manifesto. I wonder if the decision to publish her memoirs now, rather than after her term in office, was motivated by a desire to capitalise on her fame as Africa's first female president; regardless of the motivation, there's more than a modicum of self-p This is not the best-written memoir that I've ever read. President Sirleaf spent much of her career working for corporations and large institutions, and that shows in her writing style which has a tendency to read like a development programme manifesto. I wonder if the decision to publish her memoirs now, rather than after her term in office, was motivated by a desire to capitalise on her fame as Africa's first female president; regardless of the motivation, there's more than a modicum of self-promotion here and a reticence to discuss her personal life. Sirleaf may well have written a very different kind of book had she waited to do so until she left office. There is a lot to learn here about Liberian history and about the politics of the last few decades, but I think to get the most out of This Child Will Be Great, you'd need to read it in tandem with something like Leymah Gbowee's Mighty Be Our Powers.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I really enjoyed this book because I learned so much about LIberia, and I felt that hers was an interesting story. Amazing history, and wonderful to finally see a ray of hope. I am keen now to continue to follow the story of Liberia. I have friends just posted there and I know they are finding life still very difficult in Monrovia. While I did not mind that Sirleaf's writing style was a bit colloquial, the parts I did not really like about the book, was her tendency to use the book to "set the r I really enjoyed this book because I learned so much about LIberia, and I felt that hers was an interesting story. Amazing history, and wonderful to finally see a ray of hope. I am keen now to continue to follow the story of Liberia. I have friends just posted there and I know they are finding life still very difficult in Monrovia. While I did not mind that Sirleaf's writing style was a bit colloquial, the parts I did not really like about the book, was her tendency to use the book to "set the record straight" and her name dropping- I guess in some respects it would have been hard to tell the story without adding those famous names, but maybe it was the way she did it, it somehow lowered her in my mind- not very presidential. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the book and I would heartily recommend it to anyone with more than a passing interest in Africa.

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