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Mango Elephants in the Sun: How Life in an African Village Let Me Be in My Skin Paperback – August 8, 2000
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"Herrera's account is filled with cross-cultural anecdotes that are alternately amusing and poignant. She is appalled as she watches the other teachers administer corporal punishment, only to discover that her own students don't respect her authority because she refuses to beat them. Her solution is to devise more creative forms of classroom discipline. A pompous village chief offers her a bloody goat head as a gift of courtship. Herrera feels the thrill of triumph when her most ambitious student masters a bicycle for the first time, until the girl's older brother coldly rebukes the foreign teacher, 'Don't put desires in her head that she can never have.' Herrera's growing friendship with several local women and her tender romance with a handsome Cameroonoian doctor give the narrative its continuity and novel-like structure."—Scott Zesch, Austin American-Statesman
"Whether she's writing about falling in love, getting malaria or teaching a young woman how to ride a bicycle, Herrera draws in readers with her uncommon intelligence and wisdom."—Mary Spicuzza, Metro Santa Cruz
From the Inside Flap
Susana fights back with every ounce of heart and humor she possesses, and slowly begins to make a difference. She ventures out to the village well and learns to carry water on her head. In a classroom crowded to suffocation she finds a way to discipline her students without resorting to the beatings they are used to. She makes ice cream in the scorching heat, and learns how to plant millet and kill chickens. She laughs with the villagers, cries with them, works and prays with them, heals and is helped by them.
Village life is hard but magical. Poverty is rampant-yet people sing and share what little they have. The termites that chew up her bed like morning cereal are fried and eaten in their turn ("bite-sized and crunchy like Doritos"). Nobody knows what tomorrow may bring, but even the morning greetings impart a purer sense of being in the moment. Gradually, Susana and the village become part of each other. They will never be the same again.
Top Customer Reviews
If you happen to be looking for "what to expect" you will definitely get a sense of life as a Peace Corps volunteer...in all its vivid detail...but if you think that is the point of reading this book... you will have missed the point entirely.
The reader becomes inspired, as Herrera was inspired, by many of the villagers she met in Cameroon. What amazing individuals they were, and what deep bonds she formed with them! Mango Elephants leads the reader through a door into their worlds. The presentation is simple, but the feelings are raw, and very human. Ultimately Susana proves to be courageous, reaching out to find mutual meaning and to offer those around her concrete signs of love.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found Herrera's take on the people she met in Cameroon to be compassionate, loving, yet not lacking insight. Read morePublished on December 20, 2008 by catalina
Overall the book was good. I didn't like the two to four page "chapters" though. At times it seemed like the book was more about the author and her past as opposed to her Peace... Read morePublished on February 10, 2007 by Ed D.
Skip this one, IF you only have the time or interest to read ONE book from a Peace Corps worker in Africa. Read morePublished on September 17, 2006 by NoBooksNoLife
This book was interesting, but after reading the Peace Corps novel by Peter Hessler, this one just did not compare. Read morePublished on January 14, 2004 by meggin8D