Helene Cooper is the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times. She is also the author of the new book Madame President: The extraordinary journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf which is a biography of the Liberian president and Nobel Peace Prize winner was was Africa’s first female head of state.
Helene was born and raised in Liberia. Her family fled to the United States in 1980, when she was 13-years-old, following a coup. Her immediate family was brutally targeted during this coup.
She describes the trauma around these events, and the search for her sister with whom she became separated during this time in her critically acclaimed book, The House on Sugar Beach: In search of a Lost African Childhood.
Helene discusses some of these experiences in our conversation and describes how a near-death experience covering the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 motivated her to go back to Liberia.
We kick off this conversation with a discussion of upcoming elections in Liberia and her newest book about Ellen Johnson Sirleaf before having a longer conversation about her experiences as a refugee to the United States and finding her long lost sister in Liberia.