Two Tibetans, 19-year-old Pasang and his 11-year-old brother, Tenzin, flee Tibet, a harrowing escape that includes hiking—in street clothes and worn sneakers—over the 19,000-foot-high “Death Pass” of the Himalayas.
Pasang had already left Chinese-run Tibet once, becoming a novice Buddhist monk in India, returning home to help his brother seek a better life. The pair travels by train cross-country to Lhasa, where they spend several weeks evading Chinese police and amassing a nest egg by begging. A first attempt to cross a bridge to Nepal leads to capture and torture by Chinese border guards. That makes the frigid, perilous journey over the world’s highest mountains seem like a safer alternative, but their suffering is intense, and even their eventual safe arrival in Nepal doesn’t appear to guarantee the refugee status that will allow them to remain. During their flight, part of their journey is filmed by a British team and later made into a documentary; co-author Gray is the filmmaker. Although this collaboration includes dialogue that can only be surmised, Pasang and Tenzin subsequently “shared…extensive descriptions of their experiences and feelings” with Gray, which grounds the account. The graphic depiction of their experiences is so riveting that it reads like fiction, making the photographic insert a jarring reminder of reality.
A valuable and fascinating resource, with a foreword by the Dalai Lama. (glossary, timeline of Tibet, history of Chinese-Tibetan relations, history of Buddhism in Tibet) (Nonfiction. 11-16)