Sarah Culberson was adopted one year after her birth by a white West Virginian couple and was raised in the United States with little knowledge of her ancestry. Though raised in a loving family, Sarah wanted to know more about the birth parents that had given her up. In 2004, she hired a private investigator to track down her biological father. When she began her search, she never imagined what she would discover or where that information would lead her: she was related to African royalty, a ruling Mende family in Sierra Leone, and she was considered amahaloi, the child of a Paramount Chief, with the status like a princess. What followed was an unforgettably emotional journey of discovery of herself, a father she never knew, and the spirit of a war-torn nation. A Princess Found is a powerful, intimate revelation of her quest across the world to learn of the chiefdom she could one day call her own.
"Popular with her classmates and loved by her adoptive family, African-American Sarah Culberson has never truly felt that she belonged. After graduating from high school and moving away for college, she began to seek the truth about her biological parents. She eventually hired a private investigator and learned that while her mother was a white woman, now deceased, her father is African royalty—the chief of a Mende tribe. She eventually traveled to Sierra Leone and saw firsthand both the poverty and the beauty that exist in the war-torn nation. Interspersed with Culberson's story are chapters chronicling her father's life in a village ravaged by rebels. She describes his years as a refugee in a crowded and unsanitary city and the return and rebuilding of his home and school. This eloquently written memoir covers the isolation an African-American child can feel in a predominantly white environment; the technical aspects and emotional turmoil of a search for biological parents; and the contrast between American wealth and African poverty. The author realizes the high expectations placed on her by her father's tribe, not only because she is an American, but also because she is their princess. Teens will relate to her search for a balance between her ancestry and familial obligations and her life in the United States. The narrative style keeps the memoir moving forward yet the historical and cultural information it imparts is as significant as its entertainment value."—Karen E. Brooks-Reese, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, School Library Journal
"A mannered account of a biracial woman raised by a white family in West Virginia who was reunited joyfully with her African family. Culberson and co-author Trivas present a tidy, bifurcated narrative. Culberson—whose birth mother was white and father black—narrates in the first person, telling of her adoption as an infant in 1977 by Jim and Judy Culberson, who happily raised the orphan with their own daughters in the predominantly white community of Morgantown. The other narrative thread is the fictionalized re-creation of the struggle for survival by Culberson's real father, Joe Konia Kposowa, and extended family as they fled the violent insurgency that ripped apart Sierra Leone in the mid-'90s. The juxtaposition of the two narratives is deliberately jarring. While Culberson was being crowned Homecoming Queen, her family and other Mende people faced ambush, amputations—a favorite terror tactic of the rebels—and homelessness. As a girl growing up, Culberson was accused by other blacks of not being 'black enough.' Gradually she grew more curious about her biological parents and found out that her now-dead mother, Lillian ('Penny'), had been working at a university cafeteria when she met Kposowa, the son of the 'Paramount Chief' of his village. After Penny got pregnant, the couple decided to give the baby up for adoption, and Kposowa went back to Africa. Culberson's wrenching coming-of-age tale ably chronicles her love and acceptance by both of her families . . . Inspiring."—Kirkus Reviews