Happy Losar! Happy Tibetan New Year 2145!

Celebrating Losar: The Importance of Tradition.


In Old Demons, New Deities: Twenty-One Short Stories from Tibet, editor Tenzin Dickie, who was born and raised a refugee in northern India, emphasizes how literary traditions provide communities in exile a deeper connection to their personal histories. We suggest that observing these traditions, whether as windows to another culture or mirrors of our own, further connects us to one another as well.
—OR Books

from the Introduction:

I was around twelve when I saw my first Tibetan film. I had no idea what I was seeing.

… I watched the whole thing, entranced and bewildered. It was only at the very end of the half hour, when the couple circled the tree in the recurring Indian cinematic trope of romantic love, that I finally realized with a jolt what I was watching: this was a Tibetan film, a Tibetan romantic comedy. I had never seen a Tibetan film before. There were none. There were no Tibetan films, no Tibetan short stories, no Tibetan novels. Junot Díaz says, “You know how vampires have no reflections in the mirror? If you want to make a human being a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” We grew up, those of us who grew up in exile but also those of us who grew up in Tibet, all of us, without reflections.

Why was that? Why did we grow up as, to use Edwidge Danticat’s phrase, “literary orphans?”

My family on both sides left Tibet when the Chinese came and followed the Dalai Lama into exile. I was born and raised in one of the Tibetan refugee settlements of north India. As a function of growing up in Tibet-in-India, a young society, an exile community trying to re-root itself in foreign soil, we were cut off from our historical past, from our historical literature and culture. Of course, for Tibetans growing up on the other side of the mountains, this break from history was imposed by the Chinese state. This separation from our literary past was compounded by the fact that modern Tibetan literature was still in its infancy. Thus, on both sides of the Himalayas, we grew up orphaned from our literature. We were missing the point of departure, the runway from which to lift off.

For a young reader, this meant a peculiar kind of abandonment and isolation—the lack of one’s reflection in the surfaces, and the depths, around oneself—an insular isolation that only makes itself known when something finally pierces it. For me, that moment was when I read Tenzin Tsundue’s beautiful poem “When It Rains In Dharamsala.” I read it, electrified, and began to write a poem. It was not just that I knew the rain in Dharamsala, it was that I knew Tsundue and he was like me. I had always been a reader, but that was the first time I thought that perhaps I could be a writer as well.

Pema Bhum, Woeser, Jamyang Norbu, Tsering Dondrup, Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Pema Tseden, Kyabchen Dedrol, Takbum Gyal, Pema Tsewang Shastri, Tenzin Tsundue, Bhuchung D. Sonam-these are our writers now. Their works fill our shelves and their words echo our lives. Every now and then, I can catch a glimpse of myself, or someone who looks very like me, in the looking glass. It’s not a small thing that these writers-and filmmakers and artists and musicians-have given us. It’s only when art gives us entry into the lives of people like ourselves, with our loves and losses, our joys and sorrows, our hope and our despair, that we can begin to make sense of our own lives-to understand, to cherish, and to glory in our own humanity-to find divinity in it.

What better way to celebrate the New Year than with the first English-language anthology of contemporary Tibetan fiction. For a limited time, take 40% off Old Demons, New Deities with coupon code LOSAR.

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