Yangzom Brauen tells the story of three generations of women in her family, beginning with her grandmother’s young adulthood spent as a Buddhist nun in Tibet. The family fled Tibet in 1960 to escape the Chinese, ending up in India, then Switzerland and, eventually, the United States.
Yangzom’s mother, Sonam Dolma Brauen, is now an artist in New York City, whose work can be see on her website.
Recommend this to teens who enjoy refugee stories such as Loung Ung’s First They Killed my Father: a Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (HarperCollins, 2001) or What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng; A Novel by Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s, 2006).
BRAUEN, Yangzom. Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family’s Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom. tr. from German by Katy Derbyshire. 304p. maps. photos. St. Martin’s. Sept. 2011. Tr $25.99. ISBN 978-0-312-60013-6. LC 2011024755.
Adult/High School–Kunsang, the author’s grandmother, had one goal when she was a child–to be a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She spent days in the local nunnery, returning to her father’s house each night to care for him. Her father died when she was 14, allowing her to begin her life as a nun, including fasting, meditation, and chanting the prayer om mani peme hung more than 100 times a day. For years Kunsang lived as a follower of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, begging for food, praying for her neighbors, and living in abject poverty. During this time, she married a monk, Tsering, and had children while still maintaining her religious practices as caretaker of a hermitage at Pang-Ri. Then, in 1960, she and her family fled to India to escape the Chinese invasion. There they lived lives of poverty and back-breaking physical work, which killed Tsering. It was only after a Swiss student working for a charity married Kunsang’s daughter (the author’s mother) and moved the family to Switzerland that their lives became safer and easier. Brauen’s story is much more than family memoir; it provides an in-depth view of the daily life of Tibetan nuns. The author illuminates the lives of refugees, for whom safety in India is coupled with poverty and hard work, as well as on-going efforts to bring the Tibetan cause to the attention of world leaders. This book will appeal to teens interested in Tibetan Buddhism, as well as student activists interested in the Free Tibet movement.–Laura Pearle, Venn Consultants, Carmel, NY