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The Blue Sky


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Galsan Tschinag is the German name taken by Irgit Shynykbai-oglu Dshurukuwaa, a Tuvan born in Mongolia in the early 1940s. Tschinag studied in Germany in the early '60s and ended up leading the Tuvan people, dispersed under Communism, back to the High Altai mountain region. This autobiographical novel, the first of a trilogy, mines his Mongolian boyhood as a youngest child with an unusual devotion to his grandmother (who comes to live with his immediate family in their yurt). Galsan has aspirations to increase the family's holdings to 1,000 animals and a yurt with a mirror and a suitcase. As Tuvan customs get disrupted by the Communist government's attempts at societal homogenization, the boy continues to tend sheep without the company of his siblings (sent to boarding school) and turns to Arsylang, his dog, for companionship. The foundations for his natural ambitions disappear piecemeal. Tschinag offers softly outlined characters more in the oral tradition than that of the novel, and fly-on-the-wall depictions of the Tuvans, a generally nonaggressive, nomadic tribe with a knack for maxims and poetic superstitions. Descriptions of the Altai mountains, remarkable sky, and closeness to the flock are slow but rich. The book is filled with small pleasures. (Oct. 26) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Storyteller, poet, shaman, and leader of the Tuvans of Mongolia, Tschinag debuts in English with this novel. Set in the High Altai Mountains of Tuva, roughly the western section of Mongolia between the Russian Federation and China, this work represents the first part of Tschinag's semi-autobiographical trilogy. A Turkic-speaking people, the Tuvans are famous in the West for throat singing. Told from the perspective of the young shepherd boy Dshurukuwaa, the work chronicles the collision of modern life with the Tuvans' nomadic way of life and ancient traditions. Dshurukuwaa and his family not only confront an extremely harsh natural environment but also the encroachment of communism and Soviet collectivization. The young shepherd's older siblings leave home to attend boarding school and are introduced to a world vastly different from their mountain home. Dshurukuwaa's personal struggles deepen when his grandmother passes away. Then his dog Arsylang is poisoned accidentally after ingesting bait his father has set out to help achieve an artificially imposed hunting quota of wolves and foxes. This epic story ends far too abruptly with Dshurukuwaa ranting madly against his and his family's fate. However, Tschinag's beautiful descriptions of his stark and remote mountain homeland and the emotion he evokes through details about the family's daily life will make readers eager for the next installments of Tschinag's tale: The Grey Earth and The White Mountain. Recommended.-Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Gr 7 Up-A poet, shaman, and leader of his Tuvan people describes the harshness and beauty of a childhood spent herding sheep in Mongolia's High Altai mountains. The boy endures the loss of his beloved grandmother, much of his flock in a difficult winter, and his dog in a tragic accident. The events described happen around 1950 in a part of the Communist world just beginning to experience political change. The author provides a fascinating window into an indigenous world in which nomads move with their flocks and their yurts up and down the mountains according to the season. As the youngest, the shepherd is kept at home when, in the beginning of the Tuvans' assimilation into Mongolian society, his older brother and sister are sent to boarding school. The loss of his siblings is only the first of the events leading to modernization and to his dramatic rejection of Father Sky, the religion of his people. This beautiful and difficult story has been smoothly translated from the German, Tschinag's only written language. A glossary and lengthy notes from both author and translator are appended. This is a memorable read, especially for teens who enjoyed Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton's Facing the Lion (National Geographic, 2003), Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis (Pantheon, 2003), or Said Hyder Akbar and Susan Burton's Come Back to Afghanistan (Bloomsbury, 2005).-Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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