Hello friends, we interrupt Book Club to remind you that Connection Group Registration will open tomorrow, Tuesday at 6:00 p.m.. Check out the groups here and find several that interest you in case your first choice is closed. (Not “now” as Amy was totally jet lagging and got confused on days. She is VERY sorry for the confusion :)).
Entering a new culture requires a learning and humble heart, eagerness, and the utmost care to leave judgment aside and allow curiosity to grow. In some ways, I feel like I need the same attitude coming in to this section of Monique and the Mango Rains as we continue our discussion this week. It is not easy to be confronted with inequality, illness, and death that could be prevented, and cultural customs in need of transformation, whether in our new homes across oceans or as we read our book club pick this month.
In chapters five and six we are introduced to Pascal, a close friend of Monique. Their marriages to other people were arranged years before they would have been able to make the choice to marry each other, but that choice was not an option. This cultural practice rubs my independent streak the wrong way, although as I’ve entered my thirties I’ve wondered if having a little help in the marrying department might not hurt. As I read about Monique and Pascal’s experience, I paused to think about how many things we do because it’s the way things have always been done. I don’t question my ability to choose a spouse or go on a date if I want to because that’s the way it has been done for generations. We value independence and free thinking in America.
Value clashes can be one of the painful and stretching experiences of cross-cultural living, wrestling with which of those values are personal and which ones are part of what we bring from our home and family cultures. I thought about the author Kris Holloway’s visit to the dùgùtigi, the village chief, to advocate for Monique to be able to receive her wages rather than seeing the money all go to her father-in-law while she only was given a small amount or none at all. The village chief could not help her, could not make those changes himself and talking to the village accountant who released the funds “would do nothing”.
In instances like this, what is our role as the foreigner? Do we rush in for justice, go along with the way things have always been done, slow down to learn more? How have you wrestled through issues like this in your setting?
On a lighter note, do you like green mangoes, or do you prefer the sweeter yellow mangoes? In Cambodia, a popular snack is crunchy green mangoes dipped in spicy chilies. I’m usually issued a warning not to eat too many because they won’t settle well with my “foreign stomach”, but I do enjoy a few. There’s nothing quite like the sweet mangoes with juice running down your chin though. I’m sure mangoes are different around the world, and maybe the methods for removal are as well! Have you used Monique’s trick for getting mangoes down from the high spots?
I would love to have you chime in to the discussion with your thoughts on Monique and the Mango Rains! See you in the comments!
Here’s the plan for the rest of the month:
September 18: Chapters 6-8
September 25th: Chapters 9-11 and Postscript
Did you miss out on a chance to win our giveaway book last week? No worries! You get ANOTHER chance this week! Abbie Smith has written Stretchmarks I Wasn’t Expecting: A Memoir on Early Marriage and Motherhood. Last week she shared a wonderful summary of the book, which you can go back and check out here.
Abbie is popping back in this week to share a little bit more of her story with us.
Sarah: Abbie, you share honestly in your book about some of your struggles with depression and eating disorders. What hope would you like to offer to others who might be on a similar journey?
Abbie: What a meaningful question. In my darkest hours of depression and food/body disorders, sensing that I was not alone, and that, in fact, someone had walked similarly windy trenches before me, and found a way out, was a huge dose of hope. It would be of utmost privilege to offer such empathy to another. The pages won’t fix you, but I do pray they lend many invitations to a life more free.
Here’s how you win: add your comment to this post with your thoughts on Monique and the Mango Rains, a question for Abbie or the community, or your own birth story by Sunday, September 16th. We’ll choose one winner this week to receive either an electronic copy or physical copy of Abbie’s book (your choice)!
*When you purchase Stretchmarks, 50% of proceeds go to “We Welcome Refugees”.