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REBEL by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel


A Tibetan Odysssey

by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: May 31st, 2000
ISBN: 0-688-16735-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

Fruit of two years’ overseas research and interviewing, Whitesel’s tale of a teenager’s coming of age is a perceptive study of social, spiritual, and cultural values. In the opening years of the 20th Century, Thondup Dorje, known as “Thunder,” is terrified to realize that the trader who has rescued him from a mountain storm is a “fringie” (white foreigner) in disguise. Confusingly, and contrary to everything Thunder has ever been told, the man doesn't seem at all demonic; still, as one considered dangerously contaminated, Thunder is hustled off to the distant gompu (monastery) where his eldest uncle, an influential lama, resides. There, he encounters kindness and cruelty, malice, courage, narrow superstition mingled with transcendental wisdom—and some disturbing ideas, including the radical notion that his life need not be entirely dictated by others. Through Thunder’s eyes, the author presents traditional Tibetan attitudes and customs with sometimes bemused respect. With brilliant subtlety, she also provides glimpses of a Buddhist worldview in which all acts carry a karmic burden or reward (the two being sometimes indistinguishable), and as young bodies house old souls, even small children are capable of insight and compassion beyond their physical years. Profoundly changed by his experiences, Thunder turns in the end, armed with a clearer vision of his life's path, toward a prophesied future in which Tibet’s long isolation will end in violence and exile. A strong debut that will give readers both a wide-angle view of a threatened culture, and of one young man’s personal search for truth. (afterword, bibliography, glossary) (Fiction. 11-13)