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Mama Lola

A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society #4)

Karen McCarthy Brown, Claudine Michel (Foreword by)


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (12/1/2001)


Vodou is among the most misunderstood and maligned of the world's religions. Mama Lola shatters the stereotypes by offering an intimate portrait of Vodou in everyday life. Drawing on a 35 year long friendship with Mama Lola, a Vodou priestess, Karen McCarthy Brown tells tales spanning five generations of Vodou healers in Mama Lola's family, beginning with an African ancestor and ending with Claudine Michel's account of working with Mama Lola after the Haitian earthquake. Out of these stories, in which dream and vision flavor everyday experience and the Vodou spirits guide decision making, Vodou emerges as a religion focused on healing brought about by mending broken relationships between the living, the dead, and the Vodou spirits.

Deeply exploring the role of women in religious practices and the related themes of family and of religion and social change, Brown provides a rich context in which to understand the authority that urban Haitian women exercise in the home and in the Vodou temple.

Praise For Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society #4)

"Brown has written a life story that is full of feeling."

— Los Angeles Times

"Brown's ethnographic short stories vividly capture the complicated personal history that is summed up in Mama Lola's full name and they also dramatize the larger social processes at work in Haiti's recent history . . . Mama Lola provides an engaging, detailed, and sympathetic account of the world of Haitian Vodou. Brown has used a variety of interesting, and even daring, techniques to make that world come alive."

— Journal of the American Academy of Religion

"No other work about Vodou . . . can teach the uninitiated so fully what it means to know: how unassuming, contingent and matter-of-fact real konesans (understanding) must be."

— Women's Review of Books

""This volume is superb: a poignant account of a Haitian migrant to New York and how she appropriates and reworks her family knowledge of healing and ritual. . . . Gently informed by her own life and by women's anthropology, Brown offers a sympathetic and vivid portrait of the lives of a group of women."

— Political and Social Science

University of California Press, 9780520268104, 488pp.

Publication Date: April 5, 2011

About the Author

Karen McCarthy Brown (1942-2015) was Professor Emerita of the Sociology and Anthropology of Religion at the Graduate and Theological Schools of Drew University. Claudine Michel is Professor Emeritus of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.