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Mango Elephants in the Sun Hardcover – May 11, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1st edition (May 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570623767
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570623769
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,862,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1992, Herrera set off for Northern Cameroon, where she spent two years as a volunteer teacher in the Peace Corps. While her Navajo and Spanish origins would make her a person of color in the U.S., the villagers of Guidiguis perceived her as a white woman or nasara, a term she soon realized had more to do with American culture and privilege than with skin color. Guidiguis, she found, was both modern and retrograde. The king and the mayor both had televisions and luxury cars, her neighbor bought a CD player and most of the residents appeared to have electricity, though it functioned erratically. Still, most of the daily workwashing, cooking, carrying water, grinding millet, making clothes, etc.was done by hand, and by women, which often disturbed Herrera. A fine storyteller, she paces her account so that her past in California slowly emerges (it turns out she has left an abusive marriage) between such adventures as eating termites and finding ingenious ways to circumvent the schools tradition of corporal punishment. Though the occasional bits of magical realism and mediocre poetry feel forced, the prose is lively overall. The combination of Herreras spunk, her romantic interest in a local doctor and her clever response to the political tensions involved in a teachers strike make for an absorbing read. Clearly Herrera knows how to balance the bad with the good. Its no wonder that by the time her stay ended, many of her new friends in Guidiguis saw her departure as a tragedy.

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

YA-The content of this book is just as beguiling as its intriguing title and stunning jacket. Teens will learn much from Herrera's tale of her sojourn in the back of beyond. She tells two stories: one about her experiences as a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, and the other about how those experiences helped her to exorcise the demons of a childhood rape, a suicidal father, and an abusive marriage. This part of the story is gradually revealed, as she is slowly able to rise above these traumas and celebrate life. Anyone who has been alone in a strange milieu will empathize with Herrera's initial months as "the white woman" in a remote desert town. Over time, she settles in and adjusts to her situation. Two friends die without medical care, she falls in love with a local doctor but reluctantly gives him up, she "adopts" two teenage boys who help and form a bond with her, and she is caught in the middle of a labor dispute when her fellow teachers go on strike. Herrera deals with all of these events and comes out the stronger for it. At the end, she is less critical of American problems and more appreciative of our freedoms-and our indoor plumbing. She also comes to understand that a positive attitude is half the battle. A glimpse of an utterly foreign way of life that provides much food for thought and discussion.
Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Glen D. Elliott on April 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I found out I was going to Cameroon I did a search on Amazon.com for "Cameroon". This was by far the most helpful hit I received. After reading the book I went to northern Cameroon in March 2000 on a humanitarian mission with the Air Force. It was just coincidence that I went to the same general area as the book (Garoua & Maroua). Reading this book gave me a greater understanding of the people and the culture. Everything in this book rang true, the poverty, the close families, the emphisis on class, the small town doctors, and the basic generosity of the people. Her honest narrative and personal approch to her subject is unmatched. I felt her friendship and frustration. Her friends became my friends and it left me wishing for an update on how they are today. This is a book about two years of a persons life. Cameroon and the Peace Corps are just the framework. Her writing was so vivid I now would read anything by her no matter what the subject. If you enjoy people and their complexities..... read this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled upon this book, which I'd never heard of, while browsing in the library, and checked it out on a whim. It proved to be a real stroke of luck, because the book was a delight to read. Not only does it paint a fascinating picture of life in a small Cameroonian village -- a far cry from what it's like here in the United States -- but the story of the author's personal journey, told with honesty and integrity, is compelling in its own right. The biggest surprise was that Herrera is a very talented writer with a real gift for poetry.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By juliemell@hotmail.com on September 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As a Peace Corps volunteer just three years home, I haven't been inspired to read other volunteers' experiences because of the intensity of my own. However, one of my professors loaned this book to me thinking that since Susana was in the Peace Corps in Africa as I was, I would be interested in reading it. It turns out that I was. She has a beautiful way of expressing what happens to lots of volunteers; the fear, the confusion, the coming to terms with oneself and one's surroundings, the eventual pride in oneself for sticking it out in the most difficult of situations. I suggest that former volunteers pick this one up. If you haven't already come to terms with your experience, this book will put you on the road.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Just Me on April 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Susana Herrera has written a beautiful and moving account of her experiences in Cameroon. She has a gift for writing and for poetry, and more important is open to learning from a very different culture than her own. In addition, the book is very funny. Herrera has a sense of humor about others and about herself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It's hard to tell who was changed more when Susana Herrera went to a small village in northern Cameroon to teach as a Peace Corps volunteer: the villagers or Susana. She brought a hidden capacity of strength and independence as a woman and the ability to ride a bike. They brought an understanding of how a person could feel at home in her own skin. It's hard to tell who got the better bargain.
But the reader wins the most from this touching story of a frightened and self-conscious young person who becomes a fierce and vibrant woman treasured by the people she comes to help and ends up learning so much from. Through storms, droughts, anarchy in the classroom, life-threatening illness, political upheaval, love, hate, competition and pain, the author learns how to live--in her own skin. A phenomenal book, particularly for a first book. There is something important about embracing life in this memoir that will speak to every reader.
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