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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,404 ratings  ·  173 reviews

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

Hardcover, 315 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by Harper (first published 2009)
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May 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 50books_poc, fp, 2009, liberia
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
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
Genia Lukin
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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
Nov 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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,
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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

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 ...more
Jul 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
Nov 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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'
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Sri Ramesh
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazed to read an account of how the movement to send freed and free-born slaves back to Africa (specifically Liberia and Sierra Leone) actually happened in the 1800s. It was funded by the Thomas Jefferson/James Monroe's American Colonization Society and led to Liberia's two civil wars in the 80s and 90s. Sirleaf traces how those returned slaves founded the countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, became colonizers themselves and occupied all of high positions in society. The ensuing difference in ...more
Ms. Online
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)

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
Nov 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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 ...more
President Sirleaf is one of the Nobel Prize winning women that I challenged myself to read last October. I had first heard her name in the memoir of one of her co-winners, Leymah Gbowee, that I had reviewed here for the blog I had before this one. Because of that, I was a little familiar with the civil wars that tore Liberia apart for 14 years and the name Charles Taylor.

What I wasn't familiar with was the overall political history of Liberia, which President Sirleaf discusses throughout her mem
Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Liberia Now
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Susan Earle
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
May 23, 2009 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
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 ...more
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 ...more
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the current President of Liberia. She served as Minister of Finance under President William Tolbert from 1979 until the 1980 coup d'état, after which she left Liberia and held senior positions at various financial institutions. She placed a distant second in the 1997 presidential election. Later, she was elected President in the 2005 presidential election and took office o ...more

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“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” 242 likes
“Why are some countries able, despite their very real and serious problems, to press ahead along the road to reconciliation, recovery, and redevelopment while others cannot? These are critical questions for Africa, and their answers are complex and not always clear. Leadership is crucial, of course. Kagame was a strong leader–decisive, focused, disciplined, and honest–and he remains so today. I believe that sometimes people's characters are molded by their environment. Angola, like Liberia, like Sierra Leone, is resource-rich, a natural blessing that sometimes has the sad effect of diminishing the human drive for self-sufficiency, the ability and determination to maximize that which one has. Kagame had nothing. He grew up in a refugee camp, equipped with only his own strength of will and determination to create a better life for himself and his countrymen. ” 11 likes
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