ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS
by Yangzom Brauen
A powerful, emotional memoir and an extraordinary portrait of three generations of Tibetan women whose lives are forever changed when Chairman Mao’s Red Army crushes Tibetan independence, sending a young mother and her six-year-old daughter on a treacherous journey across the snowy Himalayas toward freedom.
Kunsang thought she would never leave Tibet. One of the country's youngest Buddhist nuns, she grew up in a remote mountain village where, as a teenager, she entered the local nunnery. Though simple, Kunsang's life gave her all she needed: a oneness with nature and a sense of the spiritual in all things. She married a monk, had two children, and lived in peace and prayer. But not for long. There was a saying in Tibet: "When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the face of the earth." The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 changed everything. When soldiers arrived at her mountain monastery, destroying everything in their path, Kunsang and her family fled across the Himalayas only to spend years in Indian refugee camps. She lost both her husband and her youngest child on that journey, but the future held an extraordinary turn of events that would forever change her life--the arrival in the refugee camps of a cultured young Swiss man long fascinated with Tibet. Martin Brauen will fall instantly in love with Kunsang's young daughter, Sonam, eventually winning her heart and hand, and taking mother and daughter with him to Switzerland, where Yangzom will be born.
Many stories lie hidden until the right person arrives to tell them. In rescuing the story of her now 90-year-old inspirational grandmother and her mother, Yangzom Brauen has given us a book full of love, courage, and triumph,as well as allowing us a rare and vivid glimpse of life in rural Tibet before the arrival of the Chinese. Most importantly, though, ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS is a testament to three strong, determined women who are linked by an unbreakable family bond.
“An absorbing, multilayered account of the evolution of an enduring culture.”
“Brauen's compassion inspires hope that Tibetans might one day achieve the justice they seek.”
In her heart-gripping family memoir, actor and activist Brauen provides a unique and illuminating view of the Tibetan diaspora. With her own extraordinary experiences in the mix, Yangzom portrays three generations of women dedicated to preserving their endangered culture in an unforgettable tale of survival, creativity, faith, social responsibility, and revolutionary love.
“A multi-generational saga stitched together from memories passed down from her grandmother, Yangzom Brauen's Across Many Mountains has the tragic, epic quality of Kenji Mizoguchi's cinematic masterpiece, The Life of Oharu. With unadorned prose that is both searing and laced with verisimilitude, Brauen has written a book centered on the extraordinary journey of her grandmother that is one of both human suffering and perseverance in the face of it. Across Many Mountains is nothing short of a celebration of the human spirit.”
--Rex Pickett, author of Vertical and Sideways
"This book paints a vivid picture of Tibetan experience over the last eight decades, one of the most difficult periods in our history. Through the personal stories of three women from one Tibetan family, it recalls the imposition of Chinese rule in Tibet and the subsequent efforts of many Tibetans to preserve their identity and treasured values in exile."
--His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
“A moving reminder that the consequences of the Chinese invasion of Tibet continue down to this day. A lovely memoir of three generations of Tibetan women.”
“A fascinating insight into a paradoxical society, one that was backward yet sustaining, hard, yet shot through with wisdom. Also a tender account of female courage and love. An endearing read. “
--Roland Joffe, Academy-Award-nominated director of The Killing Fields and The Mission
“The journey of the refugee--Cuban, Vietnamese, Libyan, Darfurian, and in the old days of the Cold War, East German and Hungarian--has special resonance for Americans because this country has provided sanctuary for refugees as far back as its founding. The drama is that of life and death and survival in exile. This stunning memoir is vivid and compelling, a clear-eyed rendering of the experience. A must read.”
--Diane Wolff, author of Tibet Unconquered: An Epic Struggle for Freedom
“Yangzom Brauen's Across Many Mountains held my rapt attention from beginning to end. It is historically, emotionally, humanly real, and no one can read it without opening a place in their heart for these long-suffering, brave, and yet joyful individuals. It is the saga that finally tells in vivid human terms the real story of the Chinese destruction of Tibet, the sixty-one-year long, continuing Tibetan holocaust and diaspora. I heartily recommend this wonderful book.”
--Robert A. F. Thurman, Professor, Columbia University
“The lives of three women embody a tragic Tibetan era -- at once grim and uplifting. A necessary book.”
--Colin Thubron, author of To A Mountain in Tibet, Shadow of the Silk Road, and In Siberia
“Yangzom Brauen recounts a gripping true story of her family and has kept alive the dreams of her grandmother.”
--Kehdroob Thondup, co-author of Dalai Lama, My Son
“Yangzom Brauen’s Across Many Mountains, a triumphant tale of three generations of Tibetan women as they journey from Tibet to Switzerland, teaches us that there is much to learn from those who persevere in the face of injustice and the unknown. The courage of these women as they cross borders and learn the language of survival gives us insight into a country that remains a mystery to many, as well as enlightens the even vaster landscape of the human heart.”
--Kim Sunée, New York Times bestselling author of Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home
“The story of Kunsang and Sonam and Yangzom touches my heart because it brings back memories of life in Old Tibet. It tells the world exactly what it means to be a Tibetan refugee who loves her homeland deeply but at the same time is capable of adapting to life in the Western World. The courage and integrity and endurance of Kunsang and Sonam are astounding. I thank Yangzom for telling their story. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to know about the real situation in Tibet.”
---Arjia Rinpoche, Director, Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center and author of Surviving the Dragon
“If this was a movie you might accuse the writers of taking too many liberties with the truth. How could a young nun and young monk marry as Tibetan Buddhists? How could their young daughter survive the perils of a dangerous escape through the snow covered Himalayas and go on to marry a dashing Swiss academic? And then their daughter becomes the perfect blend of freedom activist and gorgeous Hollywood starlet--it defies belief. But not only is the tale that Yangzom Brauen weaves of three very different yet integrally connected generations a satisfying read, I guarantee that you will learn more about the struggle for Tibetan independence, the complexities of the Tibet-China relationship, and the principles of Tibetan Buddhism than you will glean from any Westerners' account. If you value exceptional storytelling, I urge you to read this book. If you care about human rights, women's issues and world peace, you must read this book.”
--Christal Smith, The Huffington Post