by Susana Herrera
I bought this book for �1.99 from a cheapy cheapy remainder book shop on Charing Cross Road yesterday as I walked up from Leicester Sq area to Tottenham Court Road after a long lunch with a new internet friend (after having filled her head with dreams of Africa and then, the pleasures of browsing Stanford's Africa section).
Mango Elephants In The Sun is the tale of a 23 year old American woman who travels to Cameroon with the Peace Corps (92-94) and takes a position as a teacher for 2 years in a small village there. She gets paid only enough to buy groceries (though evidently enough to splurge on food/ bus/ taxi every now and then). The story takes us through her struggle against the belief that every white person, especially from America, is rich, her difficulty in finding her own methods for gaining the respect of her students and her slow but sure establishment of strong friendships in her African community. When she arrives in Africa she is emtionally wounded from her life to date and seeking some kind of answer to it all.
The start is a little too schmaltzy/ spiritual but it very quickly improves - I can't believe how involved I became in her story after a few chapters.
As I came to the end of it I found myself weeping so much I could hardly read and sitting in an absolutely freezing cold bathtub.
Anyway, although the poetic nature of her writing is occasionally a little too contrived, mostly it is genuine and exciting and emotionally charged.
I really enjoyed it. Don't know if anyone else will but...
I thought I'd share.
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by Susana Herrera