Eat the Buddha: Book summary and reviews of Eat the Buddha by Barbara Demick

Eat the Buddha

Life and Death in a Tibetan Town

by Barbara Demick

Eat the Buddha by Barbara Demick X
Eat the Buddha by Barbara Demick
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

A gripping portrait of modern Tibet told through the lives of its people, from the bestselling author of Nothing to Envy.

Just as she did with North Korea, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick explores one of the most hidden corners of the world. She tells the story of a Tibetan town perched eleven thousand feet above sea level that is one of the most difficult places in all of China for foreigners to visit. Ngaba was one of the first places where the Tibetans and the Chinese Communists encountered one another. In the 1930s, Mao Zedong's Red Army fled into the Tibetan plateau to escape their adversaries in the Chinese Civil War. By the time the soldiers reached Ngaba, they were so hungry that they looted monasteries and ate religious statues made of flour and butter—to Tibetans, it was as if they were eating the Buddha. Their experiences would make Ngaba one of the engines of Tibetan resistance for decades to come, culminating in shocking acts of self-immolation.

Eat the Buddha spans decades of modern Tibetan and Chinese history, as told through the private lives of Demick's subjects, among them a princess whose family is wiped out during the Cultural Revolution, a young Tibetan nomad who becomes radicalized in the storied monastery of Kirti, an upwardly mobile entrepreneur who falls in love with a Chinese woman, a poet and intellectual who risks everything to voice his resistance, and a Tibetan schoolgirl forced to choose at an early age between her family and the elusive lure of Chinese money. All of them face the same dilemma: Do they resist the Chinese, or do they join them? Do they adhere to Buddhist teachings of compassion and nonviolence, or do they fight?

Illuminating a culture that has long been romanticized by Westerners as deeply spiritual and peaceful, Demick reveals what it is really like to be a Tibetan in the twenty-first century, trying to preserve one's culture, faith, and language against the depredations of a seemingly unstoppable, technologically all-seeing superpower. Her depiction is nuanced, unvarnished, and at times shocking.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Demick, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times who served as its bureau chief in Beijing and Seoul, offers a vibrant, often heartbreaking history of Tibet...penetrating [and] absorbing." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Taking a compelling approach to documenting Ngaba's history through the eyes of its own people, this wonderfully written book will leave readers with a stronger appreciation for why the movement to support the Tibetan people deserves so much more attention." - Library Journal

"You simply cannot understand China without reading Barbara Demick on Tibet. Her work is fair-minded, chilling, awe-inspiringly rigorous, and as vivid as cinema. Eat the Buddha is a warning to anyone who tries to analyze China through its cities: You will misread the future if you overlook the war over diversity and the struggles for cultural survival." - Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition

"Barbara Demick has produced an elegiac narrative of a frontier town that is a hotbed of resistance on the Tibetan plateau. With novelistic depth and through characteristically painstaking research, Demick offers a poignant reminder of the enduring power of memory to illuminate untold histories. Eat the Buddha is an exemplary piece of storytelling." - Tsering Shakya, author of The Dragon in the Land of Snows

"Deeply and meticulously researched, Eat the Buddha tells the story of the beautiful area of eastern Tibet, land of the fabled Mei kingdom, where the Tibetan people have thrived in a majestic environment for several millennia, only to suffer horrifically in the last seventy years with the invasion and colonization by the Communist Chinese. Demick is to be given highest honors for her unflinching account, and her readers will be rewarded with a transformative encounter with the real lives of some extraordinary people." - Robert A. F. Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor Emeritus, Columbia University

"Barbara Demick's new book is essential reading for anyone interested in China and Tibet. The reporting is rich, the writing is beautiful, and the stories will stay with you. I couldn't put it down." - John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom

This information about Eat the Buddha shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Lani

a riveting piece of history
Forgive my ignorance, but I did know that China has been trying to seize control of Tibet but I never really understood why. Barbara Demick delivers a non fiction book that feels like fiction but delivers a remarkable arc of history spanning Mao's Long March through the current day. The novel speaks to us in the form of various individuals who tell their story intermixed with history and complete with vivid and horrifying details. Centered around the town of Ngaba was the first interaction of the Chinese communists with the community. As these communists escaped their own fight dealing with the Chinese Nationalists, the soldiers in the Red Army were desperate and hungry. They stole items from monasteries, ate votive candles shaped like buddhas that were made composed of barley and flour (To the Tibetans it felt like they were eating the Buddha himself),destroyed monasteries, deposed a king, ripped up floors for firewood, seized their essential livestock , and even defecated on their religious texts.These rounds of defiance and crackdowns generated the only way the Tibetans felt they had to resist. To date there have been 156 self immolations that we know of that progressed to swallowing gasoline and covering themselves with wire laden blankets. To date 156 immolations that we know of have taken place. These rounds of defiance and crackdowns induced the only way the Tibetans knew to resist. The reader is exposed to the horrific situations through historical events leading up the present. Many Tibetans have fled to Lhasa, the home of the Dalai Lama, but despite the material things that have accumulated in their lives, want they want and don't have is their freedom. This book is so much more than the simple words I am trying to convey. If anyone is interested in learning and understanding this chapter in the Tibetans' lives I urge you to not walk but run to read a brilliant and heavily researched novel that is ingeniously created.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Barbara Demick Author Biography

Barbara Demick has been interviewing North Koreans about their lives since 2001, when she moved to Seoul for the Los Angeles Times. Her reporting on North Korea won the Overseas Press Club award for human rights reporting, the Asia Society's Osborne Eliott award and the American Academy of Diplomacy's Arthur Ross Award.

Before joining the Los Angeles Times, she was with the Philadelphia Inquirer as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. She lived in Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia and wrote a book about daily life, Logavina Street: Life and Death in Sarajevo Neighborhood. Her Sarajevo reporting won the George Polk Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer.

Demick grew up in Ridgewood, N.J. She is currently the Los Angeles Times' ...

... Full Biography
Link to Barbara Demick's Website

Other books by Barbara Demick at BookBrowse
  • Nothing to Envy jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more history, science & current affairs...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Best Laid Plans
    Best Laid Plans
    by Gwen Florio
    When starting a series, first impressions are key. Introducing a sympathetic or relatable ...
  • Book Jacket: Last Night at the Telegraph Club
    Last Night at the Telegraph Club
    by Malinda Lo
    Author Malinda Lo takes readers to Chinatown, San Francisco in 1954, where 17-year-old Lily Hu is ...
  • Book Jacket: No One Is Talking About This
    No One Is Talking About This
    by Patricia Lockwood
    If anyone knows the ins and outs of living online, it's Patricia Lockwood. Before her stellar memoir...
  • Book Jacket: A Thousand Ships
    A Thousand Ships
    by Natalie Haynes
    Recent years have seen a trend in reinventions of Greek myths and legends, some from the ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Black Widows
    by Cate Quinn

    A brilliant joyride in the company of three sister-wives with nothing in common except their dead husband.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Narrowboat Summer
by Anne Youngson
From the author of Meet Me at the Museum, a charming novel of second chances.
Win This Book!
Win Band of Sisters

Band of Sisters
by Lauren Willig

"A crackling portrayal of everyday American heroines…A triumph."
— Fiona Davis

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

P G Before A F

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.