Soosi D. (Shelton, Washington)
Across Many Mountains
What this book lacks in writing style it makes up for in real-life story. Ms Brauen recounts the tale of three generations of Tibetan women surviving monumental life events across three continents and four countries. Their individual and collective strengths are brought to bare on their circumstances and result in the three of them now living in the 21st century far from their Tibetan roots.
Beginning with their simple and deeply-religious life in remote Tibet and continuing through their flight to India during the 1959 Chinese invasion, the author recounts somewhat flatly, the story of her grandparents' early experiences as they were forced to leave the land they loved. Ms. Brauen's writing style gains a dynamic quality as she moves through her mother's young life in India and later her romance with Ms. Brauen's now-famous father, Martin Brauen. It is Mr. Brauen's proposal of marriage that leads to their move to Switzerland and eventually to the United States.
This is an important retelling of one Tibetan family that was forced to leave their native land yet remain devoted to the religious and cultural beliefs of their people. Having traveled in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and having met other Tibetan families, I find this book to be very representative of the stories told by many other Tibetans living outside the boundaries of Tibet today.
Editor's Note: Some months after submitting her review, Soosi emailed us with some additional thoughts...
I wanted to comment further on my previous review of Across Many Mountains. I discovered that I had already bought this book last Spring when I was in Hong Kong, but had not read it and had put it aside to read 'later' as I often do. My context for reading it (and rating it) was based on two (and now three) trips to Qinghai Province, China to the eastern Tibetan Plateau region that is settled primarily by rural Tibetans and Hui (Chinese Muslims). Our guide each time has been a wonderful young Tibetan man who has a similar history as the main characters, He made a similar trip from his monastery at the age of 15 to Lhasa, on to Katmandu with a group of 57 'pilgrims' who then traveled the rest of the way to India and Dharmsala, where he was educated in refugee schools in English and computer science. He returned to his family seven years later and now resides part time in the city of Xining and part time in his very primitive village where his family still lives. He is a fascinating, very conflicted young man.
I think I would have been less distracted by the quality of writing in Across Many Mountains if I had been reading about an experience such as theirs for the first time....so I guess it works both ways. In hindsight, I really did enjoy the content of the book. Interestingly, I had my review copy in my suitcase on our trip to Sichuan/Qinghai this November and it disappeared from my suitcase in Chengdu. No one said anything, it was just taken! I was hand-carrying it to our guide who was very eager to read it. I should have kept it closer to my body! I hope it got passed along and not burned.
Michael F. (Providence, RI)
A tragic history, lovingly told
This memoir is a touching and personal portrait of Tibet and Tibetans through three generations of women, whose story, though long on the periphery of my knowledge, I never really knew. This family history, lovingly told by the granddaughter, Yangzom Brauen, and deftly translated by Katy Derbyshire, paints a vivid picture of life in traditional Tibet, up to and beyond the point where it is disrupted by Chinese incursion. Brauen’s grandmother, a Buddhist nun, is a central figure of archetypal stature who anchors the family for the full extent of the tumultuous 20th Century and beyond, from the homeland bravely onward into exile. History is nothing more than the accumulation of individual narratives, and ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS is a worthy addition to the grand and tragic historical narrative of Tibet.
Cynthia S. (Rensselaer, NY)
Across Many Mountains
Three generations of Tibetan women share their lives and culture. Kungsang, Sonam and Yangzom relate their family struggles under the Chinese rule in Tibet. Across Many Mountains is a must read and relates much history of a people who remain true to their identity even in exile.
Across Many Mountains
I enjoyed this book because it informed me about the plight of the Tibetan people under Chinese domination and about the Buddhist way of living. It is written in a straight forward manner and could be classified as a young adult book. I would like to see it receive plenty of publicity to raise awareness of this situation and provide ways that people could help.
Mary H. (Okemos, MI)
Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen
I, of course, had heard of the Dalai Lama, and have seen posters and bumper stickers that say “Free Tibet”. But I never really knew what it was all about. This book gives a recent history of Tibet through the amazing experiences of three generations of women in a remarkable family. The story of Buddhist nun Kungsang and her family’s escape over the Himalayas is harrowing and moving. I kept looking at the beautiful faces of the book’s subjects on the cover and admiring them for their strength. There will be additional photographs in the finished book which will be a wonderful complement to the story. There is also a great deal about Buddhism in the book, which I found very interesting. This will be a great selection for the International Book Group I lead at our library – there will be lots to discuss.
Susan S. (Lakeville, MA)
It had me at "Hello"!
This book is written by the granddaughter of two amazing Tibetan women. She writes about her grandmother, who is a Tibetan nun, and her mother who struggled through extreme poverty and hardship to survive and educate herself. I was mesmerized by the trek to freedom across the Himalayan mountains during the winter and the deeply spiritual nature of the grandmother and her husband, a Tibetan monk. If you like books about strong, successful women, you will love this as much as I did. I finished it in a marathon reading session.
Barbara H. (Richmond, IN)
Across Many Mountains
Across Many Mountains is both a memoir and an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, culture, and Chinese occupation. It tells the captivating story of a family escaping Tibet in fear of approaching Chinese soldiers.
It is truly a learning experience of the lifestyles of Tibetans prior to Chinese occupation. Also, the occupation, which we seldom hear or read about, is an important part of the book's content.
In the straightforward telling the author very capably intertwines Tibet that was and the family's personal story. It is exciting, informative, and a very compelling read.