Reading Mongolia: Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia: A Feminist Poet from Japan Encounters Prewar China

I get most of the books for the blog from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, because libraries rule. Especially when searching through the system conjures up an oddity, like my next selection for Mongolia…

Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia: A Feminist Poet from Japan Encounters Prewar China, by Akiko Yosano and translated by Joshua A. Fogel. Like, there’s no way on this earth I would ignore that.

This book is very much a travelogue of an intelligent and very Japan-centric woman. Of her time. I’m not going to unpack the intensity and multiple layers that exist even within the title. Japan and China have a…complicated relationship, especially during the time period discussed…there are many people, much smarter than me that could inform you. From many different angles.

What I can say is that I experienced this book in conjunction with several other titles about Mongolia, and Ms. Yosano’s observations of life on the steppe fit in perfectly with what’s described in those books. It was really enjoyable to get “backup” from a somewhat detached observer. Also, it was a great reminder to be open to what you might find when you’re searching for something else…you never know what you’ll stumble across.

Dromedary camels by the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Ömnögovi Province, Mongolia
Dromedary camels by the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Ömnögovi Province, Mongolia
(image by User:Doron [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
 

Reading Mongolia: The Blue Sky

I went on a bit of a reading binge with Mongolia, and it started if off in the best way possible. First of the pile was The Blue Sky, by Galsan Tschinag (translated by Katharina Rout).

It’s the first installment in an autobiographical trilogy, and one of two in the trio that have been translated from German. Why German and not Mongolian or Tuvan or some other Central Asian language? All part of the tale, my friend, and you know I don’t like to give anything away.

It’s a beautiful story, written by a fascinating, insightful author. I feel like every book I pick up has the potential to change me; some do and others, not so much. This one definitely did. It opened my eyes in a way I’m very grateful for. Oh, and I cried for like a day after I was done (the ending is heartbreaking), and it was totally worth it…

Yurt on the Mongolian Steppe
Yurt on the Mongolian Steppe (image by P.Lechien [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Country #50: Mongolia

I AM REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS! Like, hyper-nerd excited.
What am I going to learn? SUPER COOL STUFF, I’M SURE.

Jumping in with two happy feet!

 

Reading Kyrgyzstan: Restless Valley

Central Asia is endlessly fascinating to me, so I was super happy to have Kyrgyzstan up on my reading list. I landed on Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia by Phillip Shishkin as my introduction to this corner of the world.

But, second destination in a row where the locale is way more intriguing than the book I picked. I swear I’m not being curmudgeonly! Or at least I hope that’s not it…

There was a lot to like about this book, don’t get me wrong. The author obviously knows his way around the political and social terrain of a very, VERY complicated place. I doubt that any one viewpoint could fully embrace all of the intricacies baked into the cake there.

That said, this just read oddly to me. A bit repetitive perhaps? The author didn’t trust the reader to remember people he had introduced earlier, leading to awkward second meetings. I hadn’t realized before this book that would bother me, but indeed it does. Good to know, huh?

I am glad to have had the chance to learn what I’ve learned, and I look forward to some fiction titles I have picked out by Kyrgyz author, Chignhiz Aitmatov. Now, I have a bit of a sense-of-place before diving in. Onward and upwards!

Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan
Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan (image by Jürgen Grösel, via Wikimedia Commons)