Review of Monique and the Mango Rains Monique and the Mango Rains is a memoir about a friendship that develops between Kris Holloway, and a midwife in the village of Nampossela, Mali. Kris Holloway served in the Peace Corps and was assigned for 2 years to be stationed in Mali. Kris was trained to “give health demonstrations, repair wells, build fuel-conserving stoves, plant trees, and protect the shoots from the ever hungry mouths of goats” (11). Kris meets and assists Monique Dembele in her struggle to improve health care for the women of this village and surrounding areas.
Monique, having apprenticed for two years as a midwife, and studied for nine months in a health services program, is the only health worker in the village. She performs prenatal consultations, gives health demonstrations, births babies, administers vaccinations, solves the health problems she can treat and is forced to accept the fate of those who suffer from more serious illnesses and have no access to further medical care. But not only is Kris helping Monique, they develop a relationship that becomes a very real friendship as their lives intertwine and Monique brings Kris into the circle of her family.
Despite all the things that might make it difficult, these two women create a partnership as they both try to better the lives of the women and children in the village. Women of Mali In Mali, the women’s role is to be confined to her home and yard. A Malian woman is first and foremost valued in her roles of spouse and mother. Placement into these family roles starts early; young girls are expected to help with housework and look after younger siblings. The women of Mali have arranged marriages from an early age.
And even though they are arranged, the husbands are usually married to other women also. Irreconcilable differences like lack of communication, spousal incompatibility, and unhappiness between marriage partners are some of the things Monique complains about. She has more education than her husband Franois, she speaks a different language than he, and came from a much different city than the one he grew up in. As Kris gets to know Monique better, she learns of her friend’s deep unhappiness with her marriage.
Monique also reveals that she’s having an affair with the man she would have married, had the cultural practice of arranged marriage not existed. The village of Nampossela has a clinic and birthing house. Monique was able to help the mother’s in the prenatal stages and the birthing process, teach them how to clean water, make baby food and wash their hands to stay clean and prevent the spreading of germs. She weighted the babies to show the mothers if their children were in a healthy weight range or if they were in the dangers of being malnourished.
She could provide some vaccinations and administer first aid to wounds. Women of Mali faced many health risks. Since women were to have many children they were at danger during childbirth. “I knew that Mali had one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world. I’d read a sobering statistic that placed a Malian women’s lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth around one in twelve, compared to a women’s risk of one in over three thousand” (8). Excessive bleeding, straining after pregnancies, unsanitary conditions are some of the risks for women.
Female genital cutting (FGC), was common amongst the women in Mali. At a young age they experience the cutting of their genital area, because they are not to experience pleasure during intercourse. This process is painful. It causes problems with childbirth, urinating, sitting comfortably and even death. It is often used with an instrument that is not sanitized and can cause the spread of diseases. The most troubling threat to the women was spousal abuse. “The lantern light was dim, but I could see that one side was swollen, her eye half closed with puffy tissue.
She met my stare, lowered her gaze, and quickly draped the scarf back over” (51). The practice of arranged marriage usually led to close-knit families in Nampossela, but Korotun’s defiance by marrying against her family’s wishes left her stranded without any relatives to turn to in her time of need. Another danger to women that existed was rape. “He forced you? Yes, she shrugged. It was painful and then it was over” (130). Holloway finds it difficult to tell her friend of her own similar memory.
Despite the difference in the ways these two address this subject of rape, it is heartbreaking that women from two completely different worlds are able to find a common ground in the act of rape. All of these risks to the women of Mali happen to the women in America as well. And shows that even from two different worlds, it seems things are not so different. Cultural Relativism No culture is superior or inferior to any other. Kris had to accept the differences about Mali without judging them or believing that her culture was the right way things should be done.
Kris knew it was wrong and against women’s basic human rights to have their genital’s cut. Monique couldn’t believe that Kris hadn’t had her genitals cut. “I have never met a women like you, who has not gone through koloboli. I thought every woman had it” (114). She did not think it was right that the women of Mali were victims of domestic violence, physical violence or of rape. She felt that all children should be receiving adequate health care and that women should have the right to take contraceptives to not want to have anymore children. But this was apart of their culture.
And it was up to them to change these problems. And that was what Monique wanted and was trying to do. Conclusion I really like this book. It is a personal story in an international setting about women who inspire and succeed. Kris Holloway’s book is easy to read and has a perfect blend of her reflections of her Peace Corps experience, her romance, Malian village life, Monique’s individual life, and the care of women in the village of Nampossela. This book has funny moments that made me laugh, moments where I felt sorrow, and stories of the goodness in people that made me hopeful for humanity.
Holloway’s friendship with Monique is at the heart of this book and it is tender, inspirational, educational and heartbreaking. It is because of the relationship of these two women, who are from very different backgrounds, and have become such good friends that this book works. I feel like I get to see Monique through Holloway’s book and can see how selfless, giving, strong, smart, and funny she was. I would recommend this book for anyone who is wanting to know about the culture in different parts of the world.
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