04-20-2007 03:18 PM
I'm so looking forward to discussing Monique with you. A big thanks to Barnes & Noble.com for allowing this discussion to take place.
This is my first book, so I get asked a lot about how and why I wrote it. I never felt that there was a story inside me that had to get out, but rather Monique's story had to be told and I was the one to do it. I'd always thought about writing about my Peace Corps experience, as it was pivotal in my life (and not just because I met Monique, but also because I met my husband there). For years, I didn't put my plan into action. It remained in the "one day, I'd really like to [insert: earn my doctorate, bike across the United States, learn how to do calligraphy]," but when I met Monique -- this fantastic, charismatic midwife and dear friend -- I knew that I had to write about our friendship, her life and her legacy.
As a first time author, I'm thrilled when people are touched by Monique's story. The Boston Globe picked it as a favorite book and Entertainment Weekly called it "as compelling as any novel." It took me over four years to write it, two years to find an agent, and over a year to sell it. I feel like the story of the little-woman-who-could!
Monique was a pivotal person in my life; she introduced me to the world of women. Before working with her, I had never seen a birth and didn't know or think much about motherhood at all. I was only 22, fresh out of undergrad, and I had spent my life avoiding pregnancy at all costs. At 25, Monique, a West African woman and my host during my Peace Corps stint in Mali, was only a few years my senior. But she had married at 19, had given birth to three children, lost one to malnutrition, and was the sole midwife for a village of 1,400 people. And in a country where a woman's lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 12. A few years older than me in age; decades older in the ways of women and mothering.
I hope that as you read Monique's story and discuss it with me here that you come to know her as I did -- as a friend, as a mother, as an ordinary woman called to do extraordinary things. She is a wonderful example of what one woman, with good common sense, a large dose of passion, and a sprinkling of pizzazz can do!
I have a huge amount of hope for the future of West Africa, and Africa because I knew Monique. There are thousands of women like her across this great continent -- if we can hear their stories and give them the resources to achieve their goals, Africa will absolutely rise up and have its day in the refreshing rain.
Ben Okri, the famous Nigerian novelist, writes: "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." In Monique, in the people of West Africa, and in us all, exists a powerful urge to improve our predicament, to sweeten the moment, and to change lives for the better. What are we waiting for?
Learn more about Monique and the Mango Rains.