Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali

"There have been many accounts of studying people from other cultures, but few 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."
-Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down about Monique and the Mango Rains.
By the third page of Monique and the Mango Rains, you know that Monique, a midwife in Mali, will die in childbirth. Still, when you read about her death at the book's end, you are surprised. You can't belive that such a vibrant soul could die so young. In Monique and the Mango Rains, Kris Holloway, a 21-year old Peace Corps volunteer, recounts her two years assisting 24-year old midwife, Monique, in the village of Nampossela from 1989-1991.

Their story unfolds in a hot, dusty world where the coming, or lack of rain means the difference between life and death. According to the author's web site,, the region where Monique and Kris worked has the fewest physicians and nursing persons per capita, and 1 in 12 women are at risk of dying in childbirth or pregnancy.

Despite these depressing figures, it is not a depressing book. It is a story of a friendship between two women, and how they make a difference not only in each other's live, but in the lives of other women through their work.

After Monique's death, Maxime Dembele, a village health worker and Monique’s cousin, founded the Cabinet de Soins Monique, or “Clinique Monique” in Kouri. A percentage of the book's sales will go to expand the capabilities of the clinic, as well as to provide school tuition and health care for Monique’s children.

According to, the clinic needs:
  • Land and a building (the clinic is operating out of a rented apartment).
  • Medical equipment for operations, such as operating tables, lights, lances, autoclaves, scissors, scalpels, and other instruments.
  • Medical equipment for prenatal consultations, births, and weighing babies, such as scales, obstetrical instruments, chairs, and beds for postpartum recovery.
  • Solar panels to help generate electricity to sterilize instruments
For information about how to donate directly to the clinic, click here.

To read an interview with the author, check out Jen Lemen's blog.

If you live on the East Coast, Kris is teaching a weekend workshop, "Writing That Changes Lives" at Grub Street in Boston, MA January 13th and 14th.

Photo of book cover and of Monique teaching downloaded from


  1. Sounds like a very inspiring book, I have found that even in the worst situations there is always an inspiring story to be found, thanks for bringing this to my attention. :)

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