Review: Across Many Mountains, A Memoir by Yangzom Brauen

Title: Across Many Mountains
Author: Yangzom Brauen
Publisher: St. Martin's Press 2011
Genre: Non-Fiction
Labels: Tibet, China, India, Family, Buddhism
Format: Hardcover
Age: Adult
Pages: 320
Rating: 4 Stars

Three generations of women of Tibetan ancestry are told. Kunsang, the matriarch and a Buddhist nun, left Tibet with her family crossing in to India on foot. Her daughter Sonam grew up in abject poverty in India. As a young woman she met a Swiss traveler and student of Buddhism. Their relationship changed the direction of all their lives. Their daughter Yangzom is the author of this book.

My Thoughts:
A favorite topic in books for me is to read memoirs of people who've triumphed over obstacles.
Enough information is given in the synopsis of the front cover of the book that I knew Kunsang and Sonam survived their arduous journey to India. I knew that at some point Sonam would marry a westerner that gave the women a chance to leave India and poverty behind. I knew Yangzom was the author of "their" stories.
But, it was all the in-between stories of their lives I was interested in knowing about. I was also hoping to learn a bit about Tibet, and Buddhism. This last point was a driving force throughout the book. The women's faithful belief to Buddhism. A religion that was as apart of them as their own skin.
Kunsang and Sonam's stories are dominant, whereas Yangzom has a smaller part. She is the author, yet she takes a backseat so to speak because her mother and grandmother had such dramatic stories to tell.
Across Many Mountains, gave me a view through a lens I not seen through before. I knew little about Tibet's history, Buddhism, or the Dalai Lama.
File:Bhavachakra.jpg of Life
The branch of Buddhism that they followed was Vajrayana.Tibetans and Mongolians worshiped under this branch of Buddhism. As a Buddhist they believed Buddhism determined every area of life. Some examples of their beliefs are people after death had to be prayed for over many days until their consciousness reached another state of being. That all people at death are reincarnated, maybe as a table, or insect, but rarely as another human. They believe in good karma, prayer beads, earning merits, and self-immersion of meditation, and in using mantras. There has been more than one Buddha.

Why did I give Across Many Mountains, 4 stars?
  • The book gave me a view I'd not seen before: Tibet, Buddhism, how India treated these Tibetan refugees, assimilation into the western world for these women, Dalai Lama, and China's political takeover and influx of Tibet.
  • Triumph over poverty, disease, loss of loved ones, homelessness, despair. 
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