Summary and book reviews of Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen

Across Many Mountains

A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom

By Yangzom Brauen

Across Many Mountains
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2011,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2012,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

A powerful, emotional memoir and an extraordinary portrait of three generations of Tibetan women whose lives are forever changed when Chairman Mao's Red Army crushes Tibetan independence, sending a young mother and her six-year-old daughter on a treacherous journey across the snowy Himalayas toward freedom.

Kunsang thought she would never leave Tibet. One of the country's youngest Buddhist nuns, she grew up in a remote mountain village where, as a teenager, she entered the local nunnery. Though simple, Kunsang'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 changed everything. When soldiers arrived at her mountain monastery, destroying everything in their path, Kunsang and her family fled across the Himalayas only to spend years in Indian refugee camps. She lost both her husband and her youngest child on that journey, but the future held an extraordinary turn of events that would forever change her life - the arrival in the refugee camps of a cultured young Swiss man long fascinated with Tibet. Martin Brauen will fall instantly in love with Kunsang's young daughter, Sonam, eventually winning her heart and hand, and taking mother and daughter with him to Switzerland, where Yangzom will be born.

Many stories lie hidden until the right person arrives to tell them. In rescuing the story of her now 90-year-old inspirational grandmother and her mother, Yangzom Brauen has given us a book full of love, courage, and triumph, as well as allowing us a rare and vivid glimpse of life in rural Tibet before the arrival of the Chinese. Most importantly though, Across Many Mountains is a testament to three strong, determined women who are linked by an unbreakable family bond.  

Prologue

It is late autumn and the wind whistles across the dry, rocky fields and meadows. As I step out of the house a fierce gust pushes me aside, so strong that I have to tilt my body into its force. Mola stands with her legs planted wide, buttressing herself against the gale.  Mola means grandmother in Tibetan. My grandmother is a ninety-one-year-old Buddhist nun. In the tradition of all Buddhist nuns, her now snow-white hair is cropped close to her scalp, and she wears only red, orange, and yellow. Her floor-length Tibetan chupa billows out like a sail, and it takes all her concentration to keep her balance. My grandmother wants to perform kora.  For Tibetans, kora means walking around a sacred place absorbed in prayer, a kind of pilgrimage that can encompass hundreds of miles or only a few yards.

My parents, my brother, Mola, and I have all met here for a short family holiday. Life has scattered us: Bern, Zurich, Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin. If Tibet had remained ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

With 18 out of 19 reviewers rating it 4 or 5 stars, Across Many Mountains is a clear favorite among BookBrowse readers. Here's what they have to say:

Across Many Mountains is exciting, informative, and a very compelling read (Barbara H). Once I opened the book, I couldn't put it down. I compare it to Elie Wiesel's Night; although Ms. Brauen does not present any horrifying details, she illustrates the persecution of a people based on their religion, in this case Buddhism. You learn a lot about this ancient religion and the way people in an isolated country can live on nothing (Donna N). Across Many Mountains is a must-read and relates the history of a people who remain true to their identity even in exile (Cynthia S); it is a worthy addition to the grand and tragic narrative of Tibet (Michael F).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews
The Huffington Post

If this was a movie you might accuse the writers of taking too many liberties with the truth.... If you value exceptional storytelling, I urge you to read this book. If you care about human rights, women's issues, and world peace, you must read this book.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. An absorbing, multilayered account of the evolution of an enduring culture.

Publishers Weekly

Subtle humor lightens Brauen's urgent tone... Brauen's compassion inspires hope that Tibetans might one day achieve the justice they seek.

Author Blurb His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
This book paints a vivid picture of Tibetan experience over the last eight decades, one of the most difficult periods in our history. Through the personal stories of three women from one Tibetan family, it recalls the imposition of Chinese rule in Tibet and the subsequent efforts of many Tibetans to preserve their identity and treasured values in exile.

Author Blurb Colin Thubron, author of To A Mountain in Tibet, Shadow of the Silk Road, and In Siberia
The lives of three women embody a tragic Tibetan era - at once grim and uplifting. A necessary book.

Reader Reviews
Sandy B. (Dewitt, NY)

"From Oppression To Freedom"
I was particularly interested in reading this book because although I have heard about the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the oppression of the Tibetan people, I knew nothing about the history of the country. As a school social worker in a school ...   Read More

Sarah W. (Frenchtown, MT)

A view into the Tibetan experience
For me this was a bit of a surprise. I expected to read much of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. What I found was a personal journal of three generations of Tibetan refugees, including very interesting details of Tibetan culture and religion. I felt...   Read More

Andrea B. (Phoenix, AZ)

Three Generations of Tibetan Women
This book expanded my knowledge of Tibet and its recent history. I have recently studied the history of China for the last 5000 years. The border of China has expanded and contracted over many centuries. This book prompted me to think about all ...   Read More

Darlyne F. (Hunter, ND)

Across Many Mountains
I liked this book. You could tell that the writer really knew what she was writing about. Sometimes the descriptions the details were a little to long and for me that made it a slow read for me. But I learned a lot about Tibet and Buddhism. I ...   Read More

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Yangzom Brauen: Actor, Activist, Author

Born to a Tibetan artist and a Swiss anthropologist, Yangzom Brauen (pronounced YAHNG-zom Bhrown) gained an appreciation for the arts at a young age. Yangzom Brauen She attended school at Europe's prestigious University of Theater and Music in Bern and was soon thereafter cast in a local television program, Manne Zimmer, on the National Swiss Television Network. Her career snowballed from there as she earned more acting jobs around Europe, and her big break finally came in 2005 when she landed the role of Inari in the Hollywood sci-fi adventure Aeon Flux, starring Charlize Theron.

With a strong devotion to her cultural heritage, Brauen is an activist in the Tibetan Freedom movement, seeking to bring attention to the suffering and the violation of ...

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