Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali by Kris  Holloway
215 pages, $24.95 list
Instructor's Manual available
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Monique and the Mango Rains
Two Years with a Midwife in Mali
In a remote corner of West Africa, Monique Dembele saved lives and dispensed hope every day in a place where childbirth is a life-and-death matter. Monique and the Mango Rains is the compelling story of the author’s decade-long friendship with Monique, an extraordinary midwife in rural Mali. It is a tale of Monique’s unquenchable passion to better the lives of women and children in the face of poverty, unhappy marriages, and endless backbreaking work, as well as her tragic and ironic death. In the course of this deeply personal narrative, as readers immerse in village life and learn firsthand the rhythms of Monique’s world, they come to know her as a friend, as a mother, and as an inspired woman who struggled to find her place in a male-dominated world.

Latest printing includes "2012 Postscript."

Author website:
“If you are looking for a book to attract new anthropology majors, this is it!” — Susan Bodnar-Deren, Sussex County Community College

“Readers will find this memoir emotionally moving, beautifully written, and highly informative.” — Journal of Community Health

“The multiple themes and issues voiced in this narrative provide a useful point of dialogue and reflection for many audiences. Although the subtitle and a great deal of the story focus on midwifery, and infant and maternal morbidity and mortality, the narrative goes further. For students or teachers of African studies or anthropology, Holloway incorporates information about kinship systems, religion and witchcraft, familial and traditional power relationships, and decision-making processes that affect marriages, jobs, women’s status, childbearing, and community self-help projects.” — African Studies Review

“This is a beautiful story and an experiential journey through the profession of midwifery. I’ve adopted it for my psychological anthropology course.” — Ron Reminick, Cleveland State University

“. . . a truly inspiring story . . .” — Midwifery Today

“Seen through Holloway’s eyes, Monique’s life is as compelling as any novel.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Holloway’s engaging and respectful inquiry, direct and quiet, is told with confidence. Monique and the Mango Rains bypasses our calloused views and leads us to love and laugh with the amazing individuals who live and work in such dire circumstances.” — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A respectful, unsentimental portrait of a village in Mali, and a moving story of a warm friendship between an American Peace Corps volunteer fresh out of college and a young Malian health worker . . . Holloway does not disguise the realities of life in a poor rural African village, and yet she is never condescending. Her admiration, respect and love for Monique come across as genuine, as does her grief at Monique’s death. A poignant and powerful book.” — Kirkus, Starred Review

“. . . tender, revelatory . . . Holloway’s moving account vividly presents the tragic consequences of inadequate prenatal and infant health care in the developing world and will interest all those concerned about the realities of women’s lives outside the industrialized world.” — Publishers Weekly

“There have been many accounts, mostly by sociologists and anthropologists, of studying people from other cultures. But there have been few accounts of actually being friends with them. Anyone who is curious about what such a friendship feels like from the inside should read this respectful but intimate account of the bond between Kris Holloway and Monique Dembele.” — Anne Fadiman, Author, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

“This funny, poignant book connects us immediately with women in a far-off land; their triumphs become ours, their struggles become ours. It should be required reading for anyone considering the Peace Corps and for any student of anthropology, international studies, or women’s health. It is a tale of the potential of crosscultural friendship and the power of intercultural exchange.” — Carol Bellamy, Former Director, UNICEF and U.S. Peace Corps

Monique and the Mango Rains is beautifully and frankly written, both an ethnography of Malian health care and a coming-of-age memoir of Peace Corps participation. I entered this book curious about childbirth in rural West Africa, and learned a great deal about gender relations as they shape the meaning of children, development resources, and the many routes to Malian modernity. Like the short, sweet ‘mango rains’ that punctuate Kris Holloway’s story, this text brings inspiration to its readers.” — Rayna Rapp, Professor of Anthropology, New York University

“This is truly a remarkable story. Fast paced, with exquisite attention to ethnographic detail, it tells of a young Peace Corps volunteer assigned to a poor, isolated community in Mali to work with Monique, the young village midwife. We witness daily life in the villagers’ compounds and in the dilapidated birthing house where midwife and Peace Corps worker assist village women giving birth. We are there for the baby weighings to observe the almost inevitable weight decline of babies displaced at the breast by the next arrival. We are there for micro-political intrigue in the patrilineal, mostly Muslim compounds where women serve their men; where men eat first, skimming off the bits of meat and vegetables from the bowl, which is then passed on to the women and children; where women (like the midwife) may even earn money that is, however, spent by the men of the family, leaving these women with barely enough to feed and clothe their families.

We witness the stark reality of lives in a third-world country: the fate of babies and young children, of women dying in childbirth. But we are also there for breathtaking descriptions of beauty, generosity, and intimacy. Of fun and levity in a rural community where life is still community based, driven by the rains, by the sowing and reaping of the crops, by the festivals and religious observances, which in this case include Muslim and Christian practitioners as well as indigenous fetishists. The narrative is enough to make you chuckle at the antics—and cry at Monique’s own terrible death in childbirth.

This story of the beautiful and horrible reality of life as it was lived everywhere in the world in the not-too-distant past will generate lively student discussions in a variety of courses—medical anthropology, women’s studies, fieldwork methodology, and community-based health care. It will also be useful to development workers in the economic and health care sectors.

Delicious like mangoes in season, you will not be able to put this incredible book down.”

— Brigitte Jordan, Author, Birth in Four Cultures, Fourth Edition, winner of the Margaret Mead Award

“Kris Holloway’s Monique and the Mango Rains is an astounding book. In her brief narrative, Holloway tells an exquisite story of crosscultural friendship, of women’s commitment through their work to bettering the lives of other women, and of the contribution that can be made to a third-world society by citizens of the industrialized world when hubris is not part of the equation. This strong, tender memoir is a must-read for anyone interested in pan-cultural understanding and the emerging role of women’s rights in Africa. But readers, be warned; this beautifully written true tale of hope and love and loss will, like a great novel, break your heart and leave you a changed person.” — Marnie Mueller, Author, Green Fires, The Climate of the Country, and My Mother’s Island

Monique and the Mango Rains is the story of two women who could easily have remained strangers, but who chose to ignore the vast differences in their backgrounds and open their hearts to each other and to their common humanity. Through their friendship we learn that ordinary people like Monique Dembele, living in an isolated West African village with few resources, can do extraordinary things. This is a message that deserves to be heard loud and clear, across the globe.” — Irene Butter, Professor of Public Health, University of Michigan

“Kris Holloway’s Monique and the Mango Rains is a highly readable account of a Peace Corps volunteer who strikes a lifelong friendship with Malian midwife Monique Dembele. It is one of the few personal accounts that describes the pleasures and frustrations of Peace Corps life, while simultaneously informing the reader of the realities of rural African life with its own particular joys and tragedies. I recommend this book for a variety of classes including the Anthropology of Development, Medical Anthropology, and Women’s Studies, or to anyone wishing to share the sheer adventure of a young American living, working, and developing friendships in a rural African village.” — Elliot Fratkin, Professor of Anthropology, Smith College

“There are many cultural and social nuances that came through the narrative. The story of Monique is the saga of a woman caught in the web of tradition. I hope the book will reach the homes of many in the West so they may know about the lives of their fellow humans battling poverty, underdevelopment, and diseases in parts of Africa. I also hope the book will find its way back to Mali where Monique’s contemporaries and fellow Malians would begin to take heart that loving souls exist abroad and their condition is being communicated faithfully and passionately.” — Sulayman S. Nyang, Professor of African Studies, Howard University

“I enthusiastically recommend this book, for it allows the reader to learn about midwifery and women’s issues through the lenses of two very different cultures. It is full of warmth and insight, and having it end was like losing a friend.” — Rahima Baldwin Dancy, midwife, author, and childbirth activist
Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Woman’s Birthing House
3. Weighing Babies and Eating Dogs
4. Behind Korotun’s Scarf
5. The Old Friend
6. A Coming Storm
7. Cutting
8. Coup d’Etat
9. Cool Resting Place
10. The Work Is Good
11. My Feet Are Dancing
12. Return
13. 2012 Postscript