Book Review: Choosing the Hero

This beautifully crafted book chronicles the life of two women from humble backgrounds, challenging the odds and leaning on each other to build a political strategy that ushered in the first elected woman head of state in Africa and restore peace and democracy to a war-torn country.

K. Riva Levinson’s Choosing the Hero is an insightful political thriller that reveals where Liberia has come from, but also what it took to restore the country to a peaceful and democratic nation, respected around the world.

Levinson, a woman of humble beginnings — her adolescent life characterized by the divorce of her parents and even worse by the sickness of her mother and her absent father — gradually climbed the ladder in the lobbying business. Through hard work and persistence, Levinson became an expert. Isn’t this almost always the story of fighters – those who come from nowhere and fight their way to somewhere? Think Riva, think a fighter.

This is better shown in her bold statement during her hiring interview for lobbying firm BMS&K. This is also reflected in her 1989 trip to Somalia in the first chapter of the book when she tried to meet with ruthless dictator Siad Barre. Chapter two reveals Levinson’s commitment to Democracy around the world as she was in Nicaragua during the country`s democratic process in 1989. Most importantly, she contributed to the democratic process that elected Nelson Mandela as the first black president of South Africa.

Choosing the Hero tells how Levinson was committed to promoting democracy in Africa and around the world even before meeting Mrs. Sirleaf in 1996. Levinson’s democratic quest was what sparked her admiration for Sirleaf during their first meeting. At the time, she was representing President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. This was what forced Levinson to continue working for Mrs. Sirleaf even though her firm objected.

She knew what it meant to support a woman committed to restoring democracy and rule of law in a country that experienced 14 years of civil war. Levinson’s continuous commitment to democracy and her firm belief in the leadership of President Sirleaf gave Africa its first female President. The beautifully crafted narration of the rocky and thunderous journey makes the book a must-read.

After Sirleaf’s election, Levinson continued to support Liberia and has been mobilizing every resource at her disposal to advocate for funds and international aid to help Liberia’s post-war recovery process. Most noteworthy has been her tireless efforts in ensuring that Sirleaf address the United States Congress (the fourth African president ever to do so), the Heavily Indebted Poor Country completion process, and the resources mobilization during the Ebola outbreaks in Liberia.

If there`s something every Liberian can agree on, it’s the international respect and tremendous international support Liberia has received for the past 12 years. Whether or not this support has had an equal effect on individual Liberians is debatable. However, Levinson’s job has been to help in mobilizing these resources. Levinson is a true friend who has stood by Liberia in times of trials and tribulations.

Mohammed Dolley Donzo is a Liberian youth leader and the author of the book, Our Future Today.

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