The method is programmatic openness, deep listening, a willingness to be waylaid; the effect, a prismatic picture of history as experienced and understood by individuals in their full amplitude and idiosyncrasy ... masterly ... Demick covers an awe-inspiring breadth of history—from the heyday of the Tibetan empire, which could compete with those of the Turks and Arabs, to the present day, as the movement for Tibetan independence has faltered and transformed into an effort at cultural and spiritual survival. She charts the creative rebellions of recent years, the efforts at revitalizing the language and traditions, Tibetans’ attachment to the Dalai Lama (and their criticisms). Above all, Demick wants to give room for contemporary Tibetans to testify to their desires.
... a brilliantly reported and eye-opening work of narrative nonfiction ... Demick guides us through the phases of oppression and defiance, decade by appalling decade, which have led the Chinese government to exert such heavy-handed control ... There’s a good deal of exposition, all of it essential, but whenever possible, she presents Ngaba’s brutal history through the stories of individual characters ... I occasionally felt I needed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the players, some of whom vanish for long stretches—in one case, for more than 100 pages—before re-entering the narrative. But Demick...knows what she’s doing. As Eat the Buddha unfolds, we come to understand why she has introduced this particular cast in sufficient detail to make us care about them. They aren’t just a representative sampling of Ngaba residents; they are people who have intersected with history.
... a deeply textured, densely reported and compelling exploration of Ngaba, Sichuan ... she captures crushing historical events through the stories of individuals ... Demick brilliantly unpicks the connections between the self-immolations and Tibetans’ past ... The richness of this book lies in its nuance as much as its extraordinary detail.
... candid, heartbreaking stories of real Tibetans who have lived through periods of great tumult in their homeland. The stories are beautifully rendered and walk readers through the events that shook Ngaba, a town in Tibet that became synonymous in the 21st century with tragic self-immolations, and is geographically a difficult place to visit. By showing how people’s individual lives unfolded and the hardships and dangers they endured, Demick sheds light on how Chinese oppression led many Tibetans to fight back, sacrificing their lives in the hopes of preserving their culture and their peoples’ right to freedom. Readers will be moved by the tragedies and triumphs of these unforgettable individuals and will develop a greater understanding of those who call the 'rooftop of the world' their home ... Taking a compelling approach to documenting Ngaba’s history through the eyes of its own people, this wonderfully written book will leave readers with a stronger appreciation for why the movement to support the Tibetan people deserves so much more attention.
Why Ngaba? Why was this 'nothing little town,' which got its first traffic light only in 2013, 'putting Tibet back in the headlines'? Why were 'so many of its residents willing to destroy their bodies by one of the most horrific methods imaginable'? The title of Ms. Demick’s book offers an answer, evoking blasphemous incidents from 1935, the remembrance of which has been kept alive by generations of unforgiving townsfolk ... The human portraits [Demick] paints are touching, often heart-rending ... valuable and elegant.
By following her characters’ fluctuating fortunes through the decades, Demick is able to convey the texture of everyday life in the town ... These seemingly minor details don’t just propel the narrative forward: they reveal a pointillist portrait. Demick is at once an intrepid reporter and scrupulous historian; she tells the story of Ngaba, however, like a novelist.
Demick anchors her Tibetan chronicle to Ngaba, a town on the Tibetan Plateau in the former kingdom of Mei. Gonpo, a daughter of the last Mei king, who was deposed by the Chinese in 1958, is at the center of the group portrait Demick meticulously composes, weaving in defining details of everyday life as she recounts harrowing stories of brutality, loss, sacrifice, and love that embody the larger story of Tibet’s long fight for freedom ... Writing with pristine clarity made possible by complete fluency in her complex material, Demick provides the missing human dimension in coverage of twenty-first-century Tibet, including the legacy of resistance that has engendered tragic protests by self-immolation, and all the anguish and paradoxes of lives heavily surveilled by the Chinese government, yet largely invisible to the greater world.
In this heartbreaking and doggedly reported account, journalist Demick...views the tragic history of Tibet under Chinese rule through the stories of people with roots in Ngaba County, the site of the Mei kingdom in the remote reaches of Sichuan province ... Demick captures her subjects’ trials and sacrifices with superb reporting and razor-sharp prose. This poignant history could do much to refocus attention on the situation in Tibet.