Tsering Yangzom Lama: We Measure The Earth with Our Bodies

The latest addition to my website is Tsering Yangzom Lama‘s We Measure The Earth with Our Bodies. This is a (semi-)autobiographical novel about a family and village that flee Tibet when the Chinese take over and what happens to them. The four narrators are Lhamo, a child at the time, her younger sister Tenkyi, Lhamo’s daughter, Dolma, born in a camp in Nepal and subsequently living in Toronto and Samphel, illegitimate son of a fellow refugee whose life is more tangled with the three women than he or we first realise.As well as their travails in Nepal, India and Canada, we also follow the fate of a small key statue of a Nameless Saint, which protected the village and which has seemingly been stolen and turns up in Toronto . As well as telling a complex story Lama also raises key issues such as cultural appropriation, who owns the artefacts of a conquered and displaced people, the status of refugees even in a country where they are more or less welcomed, the issue of assimilation but remaining true to their native country and culture and differing attitudes to religion and other cultural features. All in all, this is an excellent novel.

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