Thursday, March 11, 2010
"Monique and the Mango Rains" by Kris Holloway
Musings: Monique and the Mango Rains, a straightforward and informative nonfiction read, provided a interesting glimpse into the lives of Peace Corps volunteers and the lives of the people of Mali. For both topics Holloway is an even-handed narrator who describes her time with Monique without pity or condescension.
The book celebrates the skills and triumphs within the village while also acknowledging the people's lack of accessibility to medical care and nutrition. Monique, a bright and energetic young midwife, is the star of the story. Her optimism and tireless energy match well with Holloway, who shares her passion. Their close friendship shows how universal relationships can be. Holloway also has an interesting perspective as a Peace Corp volunteer. Unlike other Westerners (doctors, for example) who might come to African countries to help, Holloway has no real expertise to offer--just a willing body and mind. Because of this, she is able to learn and assist while not imposing her beliefs of how things should be done.
One of the issues Holloway especially focuses on is the sexism in the village and the way in which it limits women's options. She works with Monique in these areas, providing regional information on the dangers of female genital mutilation and assisting the village in gaining access to birth control, but in all these instances changes come from Monique's work. The one area Holloway does directly intervene in is ensuring that Monique, not her father-in-law, receives her salary, but clearly Monique benefits from an intervention that, according to social custom, she could not easily do herself.
Holloway writes simply and directly, so I found the book engrossing and quick. I'll admit to knowing very little about many African nations, and although Monique and the Mango Rains provides just one viewpoint of one specific place, I enjoyed its fair depiction of the author's time there.
***This book qualifies for the TwentyTen Reading Challenge (completing the "Up to You!" category) and the POC Reading Challenge.