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A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom

by Yangzom Brauen translated by Katy Derbyshire

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-60013-6
Publisher: St. Martin's

The experiences of three generations of remarkable Tibetan women over the course of a century.

Through the prism of her own life and that of her mother and grandmother, debut author Brauen illuminates a unique culture and its transformation under the repressive Chinese occupation of Tibet. Her story begins with the birth of her grandmother in the 1920s and concludes with the author’s career as an actress and her activities in support of Tibetan liberation. Her grandparents spent their early years as members of a secluded monastic community in Tibet. When their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled the country to escape Chinese repression, her grandparents followed with their two daughters. Although the Brauen expresses great respect for her grandmother's spirituality, she is by no means uncritical of life in old Tibet, which, she writes, “was not a utopian Shangri-La, the blissful paradise on earth that people in the West like to conjure.” The family's journey across the Himalayas was harrowing. When they arrived in India, they faced the brutal circumstances of life in a refugee camp lacking decent sanitary facilities, food and drinking water. Many died, including her father and younger sister. Her mother and grandmother were fortunate to find work with a Swiss-supported charity for Tibetan orphans, even though her mother could only attend school for a few years. When her mother was 17, she met Martin Brauen—the author's Swiss father—who had come to India to study Buddhism. After a prolonged courtship, they married and moved to Switzerland, taking her grandmother with them. It was there that the author and her younger brother were born. In 1986, the family visited Tibet for a joyful reunion with relatives. While recognizing that her grandmother's Tibet is inevitably changing, for her the Dalai Lama remains a cherished example of transcendent Tibetan spiritual values.

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