Thursday, March 19, 2015

Review: Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen

Title: Across Many Mountains
Author: Yangzom Brauen
Year Published: 2011

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 380
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)Tibet and India

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): Kunsang thought she would never leave Tibet. One of the country's youngest Buddhist nuns, she grew up on a remote mountain village where, as a teenager, she entered the local nunnery. Though simple, Kunsan's life gave her all she needed: a oneness with nature and a sense of the spiritual in all things. She married a monk, had two children, and lived in peace and prayer. but not for long. There was a saying in Tibet: "When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the face of the earth." The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the subsequent systematic obliteration of all things religious and cultural changed everything. When soldiers arrive at her mountain monastery, destroying everything in their path, Kunsang and her family flee across the Himalayays, with the vague plan of joining His Holiness the Dalai Lama in exile in India. On that harrowing journey, her six-year-old daughter, Sonam, almost loses her life when she falls into an icy crevasse, but all of them eventually make it across the border into hte Indian state of Assam. There, the family spends years in refugee and work camps, living in abject poverty, with no access to clean water, education, or cultural stimulation. Kunsang loses both her husband and her youngest child yet manages to make a life for herself and Sonam. But the future holds an extraordinary turn of events that will forever change both of their lives--the arrival of a cultured young swiss man long fascinated with Tibet. Martin Brauen falls instantly in love with Sonam, eventually winning her heart and hand, and taking mother and daughter to Switzerland, where Yangzom, the author, is born. Sonam grows into an entrepreneur and a gifted abstract artist. Yangzom carries the indomitable spirit of her mother and grandmother forward as a Tibetan rights activist, while also juggling a career as a model and actress. To see these three women together is a revelation--there is a strong bond linking them to one another, and together they represent the more recent history of Tibet.

Review: This book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for so long! I was really looking forward to reading it and am glad that I did. I found it interesting and learned a ton as I read about the family's life in Tibet, the escape to India in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and what life was like for them after.

Tibet is one of those countries that I feel like I have a surface knowledge of, I know where it is on a map and I know the struggles they've had in dealing with China and oppression. It is a country that many people feel passionately about even if they have no real connection to it. However, after reading this book I feel like I understand the people a little bit more. The dedication to the Buddhist faith, the simple lifestyles, and the treatment and reverence of nuns and monks is fascinating. It must have been so difficult to make the change from a simple life in Tibet to one of the more modern world in India and other nations.

The author's family is tough. They endured such hardships in their escape and lives after Tibet. What a testament to their strength, faith, and love for one another. My only complaint about this book is the detail: it was too much for me. I got bogged down in the minutia, sometimes losing the bigger story.

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