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  • 08 Jan, 2024
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Favourite Tibet Reads Of 2023

2023 is over. As the year draws to a close, we asked researchers, activists and journalists to name their favourite Tibet reads of 2023 that left an impression on them. Here are their responses.

Dibyesh Anand-

Professor Dibyesh Anand the Head of the School of Social Sciences at the University of Westminster, UK suggested "Echoes from Forgotten Mountains" by Jamyang Norbu which is an essential read. "It challenges domesticated narratives of modern Tibetan history and is a useful reminder of a different, more complex, more free, and more resistant Tibetan past".

Tenzin Kunga-

UK based activist and Advocacy Officer at Free Tibet Tenzin Kunga recommended this voluminous memoir of a seasoned Tibetan diplomat, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, titled The Dalai Lama's Special Envoy. "In this revealing memoir, Gyari chronicles his lifetime of service to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause. This book is an invaluable contribution by the late Special Envoy to the literature of Tibetan political history. The part of the memoir where Gyari Rinpoche explains thirty years of engagement with the People's Republic of China is a must-read for all those interested in better understanding the Sino-Tibetan dialogue process".

Teng Biao-

Human rights activist and lawyer Teng Biao’s favourite read of 2023 was “Echoes from Forgotten Mountains Tibet in War and Peace”. "To preserve memory is to resist tyranny. The Chinese Communist Party has committed countless atrocities and continues to eliminate the truth of history, as well as the cultural, religious, and ethnic identity of the oppressed peoples. In this context, we must read Jamyang Norbu’s latest book Echoes from Forgotten Mountains: Tibet in War and Peace. I had the honor to talk to the author, a prominent novelist, historian, playwright and thinker who inspires me and many others to understand and love Tibetans".

Tsering Passang-

Writer, activist, and Founder and chairman of Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities Tsering Passang spoke to us about “An Arduous Path: A Story of Tibetan Refugee's Struggle”  " A very few books are written about the plight of Tibetan refugees in Nepal. In the 1990s, Nepal was home to 20,000 Tibetan refugees, the largest number of Tibetans in the exile community after India. In recent years, this number has been reduced to just over 10,000 for multiple reasons. Nepalese authors rarely write books or even articles about the Tibetan refugees in Nepal. Anything related to Tibet is deemed “political” in Nepal and most people avoid the subject in public forums. It is also believed that out of some 400 Nepalese human rights defenders, only a handful of them are willing to speak up for the rights of the Tibetan refugees in Nepal. China’s pressure on Nepal is clearly working as many shy away from speaking about the plight of Tibetan refugees, their universal human rights and religious freedom in a democratic and sovereign country. Shree Bhakta Khanal, a serious investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker, is an exceptional individual, whose purpose of writing this book is to “documents the ordeals” of Tibetan refugees in Nepal. The book takes the form of a travelogue to account the socio-economic aspect of that long-abiding, complicated, and unresolved political issue of the Tibetan refugees living in Nepal for 60 years. He also attempts to look into the lives of the Tibetans, who left their birthplace and presently reside in the circumstances provided by different geography, language, and culture. The writer attempts to highlight the humanitarian aspects of the Tibetan refugees with multiple case histories and his book is highly recommended, if one really wishes to understand how China’s influence on a sovereign country affects a Tibetan refugee community. Originally written by Shree Bhakta Khanal in Nepali language, ‘An Arduous Path: A story of Tibetan Refugee’s Struggle’ is translated by Bibhushana Paudel and Karuna Karki".

Sujeet Kumar-

MP and Convener, All-Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet Sujeet Kumar wrote “I came across the book, "The Tibetan Saga for National Liberation," authored by Pranjali Bandhu”, which I believe is a crucial read for a broad audience. It provides a holistic and interdisciplinary examination of Tibet's history, society, and ongoing struggle for freedom. By meticulously examining economic, political, cultural, and environmental dimensions, the book provides valuable insights into the intricate challenges faced by Tibet. This enlightening resource is indispensable for those seeking a deeper understanding of the Tibetan resistance movement and the complex repercussions of Chinese occupation".

Swati Chawla- 

Historian and Professor Swati Chawla says “2023 was the year of many valuable new books in Tibetan and Himalayan studies. I was lucky to participate in a panel on Jamyang Norbu’s majestic Echoes from Forgotten Mountains: Tibet in War and Peace with the author himself at Empowering the Vision’s Sontse Hub in Delhi. The Penguin Book of Modern Tibetan Essays edited by Tenzin Dickie and Mystics and Sceptics: In Search of Himalayan Masters featured an impressive range of authors and themes; both have been valuable resources in the classroom. I am still reading Dr Tsewang Yeshe Pembe’s informative memoir Tibet as I Knew It—in parts inspiring and heartbreaking".

"The one book I want to recommend above all to your readers this year is Dawa Norbu’s Tibet and China: Revisiting Past and Exploring Future Possibilities, posthumously edited and published by members of Tibet Forum (New Delhi, 2018). The brief preface details the labour of love and gratitude that went into making the volume in the memory of a beloved (if often misunderstood and maligned) professor. It also introduces readers to the work of Tibet Forum (est. 2004), an organization of students of Tibetan origin at India’s premier Jawaharlal Nehru University. The Forum has been organizing annual symposia in the memory of Prof Dawa Norbu (1948-2006), which have also platformed many young researchers. The preface and the introduction by Prof Janet Gyatso (Harvard University) contextualize Norbu’s work in the discipline of Tibetan studies, and in the disciplines of political science and international relations more broadly. The collection comprises several of Norbu’s seminal essays, including two in Tibetan translation, which should be essential reading for all students of Tibetan history, Tibetan exile, and Tibet’s relations with China and India—“The 1959 Tibetan Rebellion: An Interpretation” (1979), “Refugees from Tibet: Structural Causes for Successful Settlements” (2001), and “Tibetan Views on Tibetan Autonomy: An Agenda for the 21st Century” (2001). Norbu was among the first in the field to call out the epistemological violence —by scholars in the west, in China, and in Tibetan exile— in understanding Tibetan political agency within the framework of the modern Westphalian state system. While his writing alienated many in the exile community, his voice continues to instruct with its clarity, rigor, and passion. As Gyatso notes, “it is passionately Tibetan, passionately partisan, invested in justice, invested in a resolution of the Tibetan problem, invested in Tibetan flourishing, and above all passionately human".

Tenzing Dhamdul-

Research Associate, Foundation for Non-Violent Alternative Tenzing Dhamdul wrote "In 2023, my favourite read was the novel 'Falling Through the Roof' by the late Thupten Samphel la, published by Rupa and Co. I came across this gem through friends at JNU, but it was Rebon Banerjee Dhar, the founding trustee of FNVA, who handed me a copy. Once I started, I couldn't put it down.   Having previously read two other works by the Thupten Samphel la, namely 'Copper Mountain' and 'Report from Exile,' published by Blackneck Books – an imprint of TibetWrites, I find the novel 'Falling Through the Roof' to be a successor to 'Copper Mountain.' The presence of fictional characters like Drubtop and Drubchen Rinpoche connects the narratives between the two.   These novels provide a unique perspective on the Tibetan freedom movement, tracing its evolution from the 1970s onward. Presenting a nuanced view of the political narrative and exploring the evident shifts from Complete Independence to Genuine Autonomy.   What sets 'Falling Through the Roof' apart is its raw portrayal of a fictional story inspired by true incidents in the Tibetan diasporic community. It captures historical events such as the formation of the Communist Party and the activities of the Tibetan Youth Congress then.   For anyone seeking a profound understanding of the Tibetan Freedom movement and the diasporic community's journey since being forced to exile, 'Falling Through the Roof' is an essential piece of history. Thupten Samphel la, a member of the 4th Fact Finding Tibetan Delegation in 1985, skillfully weaves a narrative that is both enlightening and thought-provoking. As I reflect on this literary treasure, my 'Elephant Notebook' (a popular phrase from the novel) beckons for another jogging".

Youdon Aukatsang-

Youdon Aukatsang, Member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile wrote "I am currently reading The Long Game: How the Chinese Negotiate with India by Vijay Gokhale who is a former Foreign Secretary of India and also former Ambassador to China. I have always found former diplomats to be very interesting, keen and astute observers of prevailing situations. The book describes Communist China’s use of strategy and deception vis a vis India to achieve its ends and has reference to how Tibet was caught in the game both pre and post-communist China’s invasion".