I READ Choosing the Hero about the rise of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to become the first woman elected president of an African nation, on a flight from Milan to Istanbul and had not finished when we touched down. I could not stop, and continued reading until it seemed my entry into Turkey would be determined by whether I paid attention to the lady in uniform or to the book in my hand.
The book is a journey of discovery, revealing to the reader the making of a true hero and the discovery of one. It is about two heroes whose lives and actions inadvertently open a window into our own, inviting us to introspect and retrospect and, hopefully, find our own hero!
I am a avid reader of biographies and of books on Africa. None has captured my imagination the way this one has done. I went through possible reasons for this: I know the author; I know many of the key players in the book; it is about events I can readily relate to; and it deals with issues that have marked a continent I care very much about. These reasons do not, however, sufficiently explain why I could not put the book down until we arrived the Pullman-Mercure hotel.
“Riva has captured some critical moments in the recent political history of Africa and, weaving it into her own story, produced one of the most compelling historical testimonies to come out of modern Africa.”
Riva has captured some critical moments in the recent political history of Africa and, weaving it into her own story, produced one of the most compelling historical testimonies to come out of modern Africa. And more than that! The book connects some important dots in the tale of a transforming continent and gives us a perspective that no other writer, I am convinced, has come even close to portraying. It left me with a new and better appreciation of the politics of my continent and how easily that much vaunted “international community” actually acts to determine outcomes in the region. It educated me on the mechanics of international relations and geopolitics – subjects I thought I knew well after decades in the international system. It gave me insights into the life of the one politician I put above virtually everyone else, including Mandela. And I understood why she too, like me, had chosen Africa’s first elected female president as her hero!
This is a must-read for virtually every leader on the continent; it will inspire them as few other published works could. And for the rest of us who constantly wrestle with questions about “meaning” and “purpose” in life.”
Hundreds of thousands of Africans in the diaspora, especially in North America, are very critical of what goes on in their motherland. They have little knowledge of the forces at play in their countries and across the region. They have to read this book and glean from it some of the ideas that will make them better actors in their homeland. This is a must-read for virtually every leader on the continent; it will inspire them as few other published works could. And for the rest of us who constantly wrestle with questions about “meaning” and “purpose” in life, Riva’s treatise gives us the words with which to rephrase and find answers to the questions and, in the process, discover, as certainly does her hero, our own meaning and purpose.
Eric Chinje is Chief Executive Officer, African Media Initiative (AMI).
Advance Praise for K. Riva Levinson’s CHOOSING THE HERO:
“A wonderful book about the extraordinary camaraderie between Africaʼs first woman president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her loyal friend and political ally, Riva Levinson . . . a must-read for all those interested in . . . Liberiaʼs recent and turbulent history, and the immense power of friendship and loyalty.” – Johnnie Carson, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
“A deeply moving story of two extraordinary women, from very different backgrounds, who worked together through thick and thin and achieved so much . . . I would highly recommend this book to all.” – Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi
“A riveting and compelling story that restores oneʼs faith in humanity… a profound lesson to all of us on the vital importance of courage and perseverance to the pursuit of a life of purpose.” – Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Nigeria
“A deeply personal and thoughtful book on some of the most important foreign policy issues of our time and a great read!” – Lloyd Pierson, former Director, U.S. Peace Corps, former President, African Development Foundation
“A compelling set of stories . . . about how political capital was built by addition, multiplication, patience, and strategy by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Riva Levinson.” – William R. Sweeney Jr., President and CEO, International Foundation for Electoral Systems
“Riva’s story reminds us that often the best, most challenging work comes to us when we least expect it and most need it. Her connection with President Sirleaf helped Liberia turn an important page in its history and further cemented the long existing bond between our countries.” – U.S. Senator Chris Coons
“Peace and democracy seemed far, far off to Liberians when brutal warlord Charles Taylor ruled. This fast-paced, crisply told story of Liberiaʼs rebirth under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is inspiring and impressively honest.” –U.S. Representative Ed Royce
“Riva Levinson gives us a peek behind the curtain of how American foreign policy is formulated and practiced. A thoroughly engaging read from cover to cover.” – U.S. Senator Jeff Flake
“The inspiring story of two brilliant women who overcame the odds to make positive change in Liberia. A must-read for any aspiring global change maker!” – Dr. Rajesh Panjabi, CEO, Last Mile Health, Time’s 100 Most Influential People 2016
“A book that reads like Le Carré, if Le Carré was a combination of killer politico and Tina Fey . . . smart, heartbreaking, funny, inspiring, and an unbelievably entertaining read.” – Dan Gordon, screenwriter of The Hurricane