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Sky Train Paperback – January 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0295989532 ISBN-10: 029598953X Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 029598953X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295989532
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #795,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In her remarkable book, writer and activist Sam examines the stories of varied Tibetan women-displaced aristocrats, impassioned freedom fighters, educators, and others-united in their desperation to reclaim their country. Over a period of years, Sam recorded stories of life under Chinese occupation, visiting her subjects by China's new "sky train." A third-generation Chinese-American, Sam also chronicles her own experiences in Tibet throughout the narrative, skillfully mimicking readers' slow discovery of the country in its many dimensions. Though complicated politically, Sam handles Tibet's dilemma with knowledge and grace, addressing the larger history of Tibet to reveal a beautiful, subtle culture that's as rich as it is foreign. At no time does Sam sugarcoat the effects of Chinese occupation on the people or the land, rendering human rights issues in terms of intensely personal experience. Visceral and deeply felt, this narrative deserves a read from anyone interested in human rights and the untold stories of oppressed women everywhere. 30 illus.

Review

"A book that is sure to illuminate a Tibet so many of us have been longing to know." --Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple<br /><br /><br />"As a woman talking to women, Sam uncovers a much more intimate Tibet, which survives stubbornly in a tattered land. The passage of time between the interviews gives their testimonies both richness and preciousness . . . . captures the heart-rending complexities of Tibet and China and how close to home they can be. --San Francisco Chronicle Book Review<br /><br />"Canyon Sam has made a miracle of a journey, and written a miracle of a book. Following her roots to China many years ago, she found instead Tibet as her spiritual home. She committed herself to a life of engaged Buddhism, working for human rights. Now in Sky Train, she guides the reader on a life-changing adventure back to Tibet and an epoch of cataclysmic change." --Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior <br /><br />"In her remarkable book, writer and activist Sam examines the stories of varied Tibetan women -- displaced aristocrats, impassioned freedom fighters, educators, and others -- united in their desperation to reclaim their country. A third-generation Chinese-American, Sam also chronicles her own experiences in Tibet throughout the narrative, skillfully mimicking readers' slow discovery of the country in its many dimensions. Though complicated politically, Sam handles Tibet's dilemma with knowledge and grace, addressing the larger history of Tibet to reveal a beautiful, subtle culture that's as rich as it is foreign. At no time does Sam sugarcoat the effects of Chinese occupation on the people or the land, rendering human rights issues in terms of intensely personal experience. Visceral and deeply felt, this narrative deserves a read from anyone interested in human rights and the untold stories of oppressed women everywhere." --Publishers Weekly, November 9, 2009<br /><br />"What I learned from this wonderfully written book that compels with page-turning intensity is so much more than the history of how China swallowed Tibet, how 'change' looks and feels different depending on the eyes that view it. The inspiring lesson that stays with me as the book's afterglow is that of the ability of the mind that is filled with faith to emerge from the most dreadful privation unscathed, resilient. This book about the Dharma of connection, of companioning, of compassion, has strengthened my own devotion." --Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life <br /><br />"[Pays] tribute to the courage and resilience of Tibetan women... Many readers will be moved by these powerful tales." --From the Foreword by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet<br /><br /> --From the Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

"As a woman talking to women, Sam uncovers a much more intimate Tibet, which survives stubbornly in a tattered land. The passage of time between the interviews gives their testimonies both richness and preciousness . . . . captures the heart-rending complexities of Tibet and China and how close to home they can be. --San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

Canyon Sam has made a miracle of a journey, and written a miracle of a book. Following her roots to China many years ago, she found instead Tibet as her spiritual home. She committed herself to a life of engaged Buddhism, working for human rights. Now in Sky Train, she guides the reader on a life-changing adventure back to Tibet and an epoch of cataclysmic change. --Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior

In her remarkable book, writer and activist Sam examines the stories of varied Tibetan women -- displaced aristocrats, impassioned freedom fighters, educators, and others -- united in their desperation to reclaim their country. A third-generation Chinese-American, Sam also chronicles her own experiences in Tibet throughout the narrative, skillfully mimicking readers' slow discovery of the country in its many dimensions. Though complicated politically, Sam handles Tibet's dilemma with knowledge and grace, addressing the larger history of Tibet to reveal a beautiful, subtle culture that's as rich as it is foreign. At no time does Sam sugarcoat the effects of Chinese occupation on the people or the land, rendering human rights issues in terms of intensely personal experience. Visceral and deeply felt, this narrative deserves a read from anyone interested in human rights and the untold stories of oppressed women everywhere. --Publishers Weekly, November 9, 2009

What I learned from this wonderfully written book that compels with page-turning intensity is so much more than the history of how China swallowed Tibet, how 'change' looks and feels different depending on the eyes that view it. The inspiring lesson that stays with me as the book's afterglow is that of the ability of the mind that is filled with faith to emerge from the most dreadful privation unscathed, resilient. This book about the Dharma of connection, of companioning, of compassion, has strengthened my own devotion. --Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life

[Pays] tribute to the courage and resilience of Tibetan women... Many readers will be moved by these powerful tales. ----From the Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

More About the Author

I visited Tibet in spring 1986 when it first opened to foreign tourism. The first afternoon there I met a young Tibetan woman who spoke some English and the second day I was invited to tea and met her mother in their home in an old monastery hidden from the main street, in the center of town. I was Chinese American from San Francisco and my family had been in the States for three generations, so it was my first trip to Asia, and I was supposed to be spending the year in China. But my new friend and her mother invited me to live with them at the end of our long tea and I spent the summer in Central Tibet. After returning to China, and also spending more time in other parts of Tibet, I decided I was much more interested in Tibet than in China.
I traveled up the Silk Road, crossed overland into Pakistan, and swung into India to visit Dharamsala, the Tibetan community in exile in the Indian Himalayas, where I ended up living for a few months. This is where I sat in the Central Library and read for long hours every day about Tibetan culture and history. Interest in the modern political history led me to read the views of the Dalai Lama, the political leader, who was also the spiritual head of the country. His views were completely underpinned by his Buddhist beliefs and so humane and inclusive that I began to become curious about his philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism. This led to my study and practice of Buddhism as well as involvement with the Tibetan community, especially the nuns. (I worked at the first international conference on Buddhist nuns in Bodh Gaya, India, in February 1987, and later back in the U.S. I raised funds for Tibetan nuns in exile for many years, for what became the Tibetan Nuns Project). Upon return from my trip I worked as an activist for Tibet.
In the summer of 1989 I wrote an opinion editorial about Tiananmen Square which got published widely, linking human rights violations in that event with human rights violations in Tibet. This led to an invitation for me to speak at a Congressional hearing on the topic, where I spoke before Congressman Tom Lantos and the new member of Congress at the time, Nancy Pelosi, and others.
After the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in the fall of 1989 I returned to Dharamasala, to work and live. That is where I became inspired to begin the oral history project of Tibetan women which eventually produced "Sky Train: Tibetan Women On the Edge of History" some nineteen years later. In early 2007 I went back on the new, controversial rail line from Beijing to Tibet when the train had only been in operation a short while and spent Losar, Tibetan New Year, with my Tibetan family. I then traveled over the Himalayas looking for the three women portrayed in my book (one of the four had already passed away) whom I had interviewed fifteen years before. This allowed me to follow the trajectory of their lives, and the trajectory of the Tibetan diaspora through their lives, and to compare Tibet twenty years ago and now, and China, then and now. With the original interviews and the later interviews written as stories I portray the history of Tibet through the lives of women over fifty years of the occupation of Tibet. Through the narrative framework of the recent trip I also trace my own personal responses to the changes in Tibet and come to grips with those changes, in part through the lessons which I have gained from my Buddhist practice.
View my trailer about the making of Sky Train: http://www.canyosam.com/skytrain_trailer1.html
View a short television interview taped Oct 1, 2009:
http://cbs5.com/baysunday/Bay.Sunday.Sue2.1223951.html

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
Once I started reading this book I could not put it down!
DrJina
Her love and respect for the women she interviewed shine out as she deftly guides us, so we see why their struggle became hers.
G. Kirk
It was an honor, held in sorrow as well as amazement, to join in Canyon's journey.
M. J. Friedman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By BONNIE K. MCCALLA on October 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Beautifully written, compelling, heartbreaking, but also vastly entertaining. Canyon takes us with her on a recent train journey to Lhasa while recounting the stories of four incredible women whose lives were radically altered by the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Much is told in this book that has not been chronicled before, thus, it is a must-read for anyone interested in the story of Tibet.

I could not put this book down.

All of us involved in the struggle to restore Tibet to its rightful owners, the Tibetan people, owe Canyon a tremendous debt of gratitude for writing this incredible and beautiful book. May it give us all renewed courage and strength to continue to fight the good fight. Bhod rangzen! Free Tibet!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Kirk on October 29, 2009
Format: Paperback
This amazing book takes readers on many journeys. On a 4-day train trip from Beijing to Lhasa we disembark in the heart of the 50-year Chinese occupation of Tibet. We accompany the writer across Tibet, India, Switzerland, Canada and the US to hear, with her, the untold stories of remarkable Tibetan women who survived shocking ordeals, sustained by their physical and spiritual strength. We also share Canyon Sam's inner journey to Buddhism, her activism on behalf of Tibetans in exile, and to a deeper understanding of her Chinese American heritage. By the end of this passionate and beautifully written book, I was in awe of the Tibetan women who, despite extreme hardships, continued to find hope and meaning in their changed lives. I'm also in awe of the writer who devoted many years to getting these stories into print. Her love and respect for the women she interviewed shine out as she deftly guides us, so we see why their struggle became hers.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sunny Book on October 25, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Couldn't put it down!! Riveting stories within a story, wonderfully written, telling personal and heartfelt experiences of several Tibetan women within the framework of Canyon Sam's own experience. I read it in 1 day. Masterfully written. A must read for anyone interested in Asian Studies, Women's Studies and Human determination and perserverence.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Friedman on October 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
I bow my head in thanks to Canyon for writing such an intimate and relevant book. It was an honor, held in sorrow as well as amazement, to join in Canyon's journey. Her ability to weave personal stories (including her own) with hard and devastating facts, makes this book an engaging must-read! I am buying a copy for everyone in my book group!
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dick Jordan on November 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Type in "Tibet" in Google, then click on "Maps." What does Google give you? A map entitled : "Tibet, China." Look at Wikipedia. Is Tibet a country, part of China, or both, and did this change over time? If you asked native Tibetans, they probably would tell you Tibet was a sovereign country, ruled by the Dali Lama, until the Chinese invaded in the 1950's. Very confusing.

To get a better understanding of how this mountainous part of Asia has evolved over time, pick up Canyon Sam's recently released book, "Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History." Sam, a third-generation Chinese American born and raised in San Francisco, went to Tibet to work on an oral history project in 1990. In 2007, she returned, taking the Beijing to Lhasa Sky Train, the world's highest railroad, traveling at elevations over 16,000' above sea level. Her book traces the lives of four of the Tibetan women she met over a decade earlier, and reveals how "modernization" has vastly changed Lhasa and its people. It's clear from her book that "Tibet" really no longer is a place. As her last words of the story say, '"Tibet" is a state of mind."

Like Greg Mortensen's "Three Cups of Tea", "Sky Train" is a "must read" for Americans seeking a broader understanding of world politics.
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By H. Zhang on July 23, 2014
Format: Paperback
The book raises an interesting question: how women experienced the chinese takeover differently from men, but fails to provide an adequate and convincing answer. The tibetan women's stories are incredibly thin and scattered, and even these tidbits are buried in verbose ramblings and touchy-feely kitsch. There's little analysis of the tibetan women's stories, and the author seldom demonstrates signs of critical thinking. Overall, I was forced to conclude that the language and depth of thoughts of the book stay at teenager level. Such a disappointment and a waste of tibetan women's stories.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By V. Dale McKinnon on October 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is a page-turner, stays with you and seeps into your bones after you finish the last, heartbreaking sentence. Canyon Sam quietly walks your heart into Tibet, sits you down, and opens the door to China's destruction of its culture and vast resources. It exposes China's true political intent in this world and does it, stunningly, with compassion and beauty. I have not read a book in the last ten years that has so assuredly caused me to care about someplace so far away.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Powers on April 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thought at times slow, by the time I finished Sky Train, I was longing for more! Canyon Sam did a great job of taking her readers to remote places and sharing the stories of incredibly strong women. One thing I liked about the book was the bittersweetness of it, the imperfection, the realness of the women she interviewed. As someone with great respect for Buddhism, I was disappointed to learn of the sexism and discrimination against women even among monks, who refused to travel with women, thereby leaving them alone to fight the Chinese as the men fled. In her interviews, Canyon Sam reveals the unique strength women can bring to crisis situations, which was really inspiring. And her own growth as she makes her second journey, accomplishing favors she's been asked to do, overcoming obstacles and being "blessed" because of her own karma, is interesting to read about, too.
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