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Leaving Mother Lake

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Adult/High School-In a remote part of China near the Himalayas live the Moso people. Except for a couple of somewhat humorous attempts at assimilation by the revolutionaries, their traditions have remained unchanged. Mothers head the household, and adult children are expected to live with them. Marriage is considered impractical and unnatural. Namu was born in the 1960s to a woman who, in an act of rebellion, started her own house. Growing up, Namu displayed a similar independent streak. When she was discovered by Chinese officials looking for talented singers of ethnic songs, there was no stopping her from engaging with the outside world. Upon admit-tance into the prestigious Shanghai Music Conservatory, Namu asked for Han Chinese (the ethnic majority) roommates. Her choice paid off in improved language skills, although she had to deal with the nastiness of a particularly prejudiced individual. This memoir vividly conveys the bitter cold of mountain nights and strained relationships, along with the warmth of hearth, hospitality, and deep understanding. A fascinating glimpse at a unique culture and the melding of two worlds in a journey to adulthood.-Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

With the help of anthropologist Mathieu, singer Namu describes growing up on the Chinese-Tibetan border in Moso country, "the Country of the Daughters." Detailing her late-1960s, early-'70s upbringing-she was known in her village as "the girl who was given back three times"-she sheds light on the unique matrilineal Moso culture, with its "walking marriages," where women take as many lovers as they want and the men continue to reside in their mothers' homes. The interweaving of the customs of this remote part of China-where "a man and a woman may sing to each other from the peaks of two mountains, but they will need to carry food for three days if they want to meet halfway"-with Namu's determination to have a worldly life despite her family's poverty and her own inability to read and write lend this tale poignancy. Most readers will find themselves rooting for Namu as she runs away from home, travels across the country and successfully auditions for a place in the Shanghai Music Conservatory at age 16. There, she learns to read and write and launches her international singing career. For those who doubt that a land could exist where girls are favored over boys and marriage is viewed with distrust, Mathieu appends an afterword about her research on the Moso and the changes that have taken place, including universal education. While not a stylistic masterpiece, the book brims with vivid descriptions of a fascinating culture. 1 b&w photo, 2 maps. Agent, Richard Balkin. (Feb. 19) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"I find this book beautiful, the Moso people inspiring, and Yang Erche Namu's own spirit refreshing, to say the least."

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