Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Eat The Buddha

In contrast to Throwback Thursday, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release that I’m excited about! Today’s is from an author I was quite moved by before, which made my discovery of a similar book, Eat the Buddha (by Barbara Demick) quite exciting!
Expected release: July 28, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • I’ve read a lot of books about Korea and North Korea because I absolutely love the country (countries) and their history, culture, and everything. Barbara Demerick’s North Korea Confidential was incredibly well-written and completely immersed me in the stories of the people who spoke. If this is anything like that, then it will be another wealth of knowledge and experience.
  • I love learning about other places, and particularly about historical and cultural events that I have never learned about before. There are a lot of gaps in my world knowledge to fill, and I hope that this book could do well to help another one.
  • At the same time, I want to break my own stereotypes. I work in travel, and the way we sell trips to this region is largely by romanticizing it’s quaint, traditional, spiritual lifestyle. While those aspects may exist in Tibet, I feel that there is so much more to know about life there. I want to dismantle my shaky understanding and build a stronger foundation of knowledge and empathy.

Just as she did with North Korea, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick explores one of the most hidden corners of the world. She tells the story of a Tibetan town perched eleven thousand feet above sea level that is one of the most difficult places in all of China for foreigners to visit. Ngaba was one of the first places where the Tibetans and the Chinese Communists encountered one another. In the 1930s, Mao Zedong’s Red Army fled into the Tibetan plateau to escape their adversaries in the Chinese Civil War. By the time the soldiers reached Ngaba, they were so hungry that they looted monasteries and ate religious statues made of flour and butter—to Tibetans, it was as if they were eating the Buddha. Their experiences would make Ngaba one of the engines of Tibetan resistance for decades to come, culminating in shocking acts of self-immolation.

Eat the Buddha spans decades of modern Tibetan and Chinese history, as told through the private lives of Demick’s subjects, among them a princess whose family is wiped out during the Cultural Revolution, a young Tibetan nomad who becomes radicalized in the storied monastery of Kirti, an upwardly mobile entrepreneur who falls in love with a Chinese woman, a poet and intellectual who risks everything to voice his resistance, and a Tibetan schoolgirl forced to choose at an early age between her family and the elusive lure of Chinese money. All of them face the same dilemma: Do they resist the Chinese, or do they join them? Do they adhere to Buddhist teachings of compassion and nonviolence, or do they fight?

Illuminating a culture that has long been romanticized by Westerners as deeply spiritual and peaceful, Demick reveals what it is really like to be a Tibetan in the twenty-first century, trying to preserve one’s culture, faith, and language against the depredations of a seemingly unstoppable, technologically all-seeing superpower. Her depiction is nuanced, unvarnished, and at times shocking.


Reader, traveler, photographer, and always looking to learn!

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