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Eastern professor Raouf Mama publishes three new books over summer

Published on September 24, 2020

Eastern professor Raouf Mama publishes three new books over summer

Eastern Connecticut State University English Professor English Raouf Mama has published several new publications this past summer. The publications include a past story of his, “Tropical Tales,” updated with new illustrations; “Contes Tropicaux,” the French version of “Tropical Tales”; and “La Jarre Troue,” a retelling of a classic story from Professor Mama’s home country of Benin. 

English Professor Raouf Mama
English Professor Raouf Mama 

“Tropical Tales,” first published in 2000, was a popular story for years in Benin and recognized as one of the Top Ten Illustrated Books of the Year by the Bank Street School of Education.

As other books came along and became more popular, the book eventually went out of print. After being out of print for nearly 10 years, Mama decided to give it a fresh start and publish it with new illustrations, as well as providing a French translation. Benin’s official language is French, making the book more accessible for people in his native country.

“In deciding to have the book published for the first time in French and in a new edition in English, I wanted to give it a new lease on life,” says Mama. “More importantly, I wanted to make it available widely and cheaply throughout Africa in general and in my native Benin in particular.”

Translated by Madame Jossou, one of Mama’s professors while he was studying for his undergraduate degree at the National University of Benin, “Contes Tropicaux” is the French version of “Tropical Tales.” Jossou had completed translations for Mama’s publications including “Why Goats Smell Bad” and “Tropical Tales,” and was working on “Monkeys Live in Trees,” when she passed away in 2004.

The translations brought together an already close mentorship, and Professor Mama will now honor Madame Jossou with the Cecile Jossou Award for Excellence in Teaching, which will be granted to a French teacher annually in Benin starting next year.

“La Jarre Troue,” or “The Jar with A Myriad Hole,” is a story exclusive to Benin. Originally commissioned by King Ghezo, the story is told that the king used a jar covered with holes to represent standing together against conflict, stating “Unless all the sons and daughters of our fatherland stand together and stop the holes in the jar with their fingers, it cannot hold the water of life.”

Professor Mama chose to retell this story for his native country in Benin due to internal conflicts. After 17 years of dictatorship, the country managed to pull back from the brink of collapse in 1990, which Mama states helped with the inspiration drawn from “La Jarre Troue.” However, Benin is dangerously teetering towards the same path 30 years later. “I hope and pray that the symbolism of “La Jarre Troue” may once again prove inspirational and powerful enough to pull my beloved country back from the brink,” says Mama.

The books, which have been published by Editions Laha in Benin, will be available at the J. Eugene Smith Library, with copies donated by Mama. Writing and updating of the books has been very rewarding, says Mama. “It has enriched my experience as a writer and storyteller and provided me with a source of inspiration and additional materials to draw on in my future endeavors as a scholar and a teacher."

Written by Molly Boucher

Categories: English