The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 11 August 2003

Dalai Lama, My Son

A Mother's Story

by Diki Tsering

edited by Khedroob Thondup

This brief book is an assembled oral history of Diki Tsering, mother of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet (and perhaps the last). This is a remarkable little memoir, relating her life from her own youth in eastern Tibet in the early 20th century, down through the birth and identification of the Dalai Lama, to their escape from Tibet after the Chinese invasion in the 1950s. The memoir is very personal but also highly tantalizing. The detail only inspires more questions and thirst for more detail. Yet, as a woman of her time and place, this book is probably already pretty revealing. We learn of her priorities, with tales of a large extended family, and her personal responsibilities as the matriarch, sewing the clothes, feeding the staff of their remote farm (she also had 16 children, seven of whom survived to adulthood). It was a hard time and place to grow up and to eke out a living. Diki Tsering was already somewhat well off in her culture, but became a high aristocrat when her son was raised to the high religious office of Dalia Lama. Her family was in deep danger after the Chinese invasion, and her tale of the escape is detailed and compelling. One wants to read much more, but there is already much here. A spare but good history.

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