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Posted December 4, 2006
Reviewer: Maria Petringa 'Author of Brazza, A Life for Africa' (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews Unlike Toteh's earlier work, 'African Child', a novel based on tribal life and civil war in the West African nation of Liberia, 'America's Runaway Prisoner: Ruined Little America' is a non-fiction account of the powerful and often destructive influence of the US on Liberia. It is a personal account, and author Toteh, a Liberian refugee now living in the US, does not conceal his opinions and feelings. But his courageous observations, informed by his own experiences in his native country, serve only to enrich the narrative. Many Americans are unaware of the enduring relationship between the US and Liberia, founded in 1821 by freed American slaves. Its capital, Monrovia, was named for US President James Monroe, and for two decades Liberia was an American colony. Even after independence in 1847, US influence over its politics, language, and culture earned Liberia the nickname of 'Little America' among other African nations. 'America's Runaway Prisoner: Ruined Little America' reveals the serious social, political, and economic differences that have always existed in Liberian society beneath the apparent independence and democracy that the country seemed to enjoy for more than a century. The book explains how the US supported the country's inequitable one-party system until the 1970s, when Liberian and US foreign policies diverged. Toteh asks and answers some provocative questions. Why was Samuel Doe's bloody 1980 coup supported by the US, soon after previous Liberian President Tolbert established relations with the USSR, China, and Cuba, broke ties with Israel, and spoke out in favor of the rights of Palestinians? Why was Charles Taylor, a Liberian criminal, tried, convicted, and imprisoned in the US state of Massachusetts? When President Samuel Doe began to distance himself from the US, how did Taylor manage to escape from prison, and embark on a series of foreign trips? Where did Taylor acquire the means to fly from the US to Libya for combat training, then to Liberia where he led a bloody civil war? Why did the US acquiesce to Taylor's reign of terror, and validate his questionable election as President of Liberia in 1997? These are issues that need to be addressed, along with the most basic question of all: How can a country endowed with rubber, iron ore, diamonds, gold, timber, cocoa, coffee, and many other resources remain in a state of poverty and dependency? Let the discussion begin. 'America's Runaway Prisoner: Ruined Little America' is a good place to start.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.