Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town


Eat the Buddha by Barbara Demick, released in July of this year, is a compelling, heart-breaking report of the Tibetan struggle over the past several decades, beginning in 1958 with the royal family of Ngaba, most of whom have died under the rule of China's Communist Party.


I read Demick's Nothing to Envy (2009) earlier this year and found it very insightful and moving. In Eat the Buddha she applies the same journalistic formula by documenting a massive human rights disaster through the extraordinary accounts of individuals affected by the tragedy, with a keen focus on mostly everyday people in a particular city. In the former she centered the story around the destitute Chongjin, and in her latest book, Ngaba, “the undisputed world capital of self-immolations," as she describes it. Her storytelling, a sort of novelization of interviews with exiles and refugees, mixed in with history and pieces of the larger picture, is powerful in the way it brings people in these "obscure" places close to us, thereby evoking empathy and hopefully stimulating more action and ultimately change. At the very least, Demick has helped give a big voice to the silenced, and I hope she might one day put her time and talents toward reportage on the Uyghurs and Rohingya as well.


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