A Hundred Thousand White Stones
By Kunsang Dolma
Wisdom Publications, 2013
This memoir is a look at life in Tibet, and a Tibetan woman’s journey to the United States.
Growing up in Tibet in the 1980s, Kunsang Dolma was one of eight kids in a dysfunctional family. She went to elementary school for a few years before she dropped out to pitch in at home. After an adolescent trauma, Kunsang becomes a Buddhist nun and eventually flees her family and home for life in India, where over the course of six years she loses contact with her family, and meets and falls in love with an American man, Evan. Together they decide to get married so that Kunsang can come to the U.S, where she eventually settles in Maine. Once a U.S. citizen Kunsang is able to finally return to Tibet with Evan and their two children. She is reunited with her family after not seeing them for over ten years.
This is a moving book. I was particularly drawn to the early pages, when she writes of her life in Tibet, and the customs and ceremonies of that culture. Her overland trek from Tibet into Nepal was riveting and while I knew she would eventually make it, there were times when I wondered if they would. However, Dolma writes in a simple voice, which might not appeal to all readers, and the middle of the book revolves around the story of how she got a visa to come to the U.S. from India. This attempt, which took months, sounded real, but the book dragged for me in those pages. However, I was engaged again when she got to the U.S., especially during her first few months, which she spent in Colorado, where she struggled to find her way in a culture so different from any she had experienced before. In particular, she writes about how in the U.S. our social life is planned and scheduled, unlike in India, where people would drop by or gather locally. I recommend this book to someone who is interested in Tibet or in an immigrant story, which is a long and complicated journey from a small Tibetan village to Maine.
Dolma and her family still live in Maine. The book’s blog includes photos from her life and deleted scenes from the book.
I received an ebook copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley.