This remarkable memoir transports us to the remote reaches of the Himalayas, to a place the Chinese call "the country of daughters," to the home of the Moso, a society in which women rule men. According to local tradition, marriage is considered a foreign practice; property is passed from mother to daughter; a matriarch oversees each family's customs, rituals, and economies. In this culture a young girl enjoys extraordinary freedoms--but the impulsive, restless Namu is driven to leave her mother's house, to venture out into the larger world, defying the tradition that holds Moso culture together. LEAVING MOTHER LAKE is a book filled with drama, strangeness, and beauty. Yet for all the exoticism, Namu's story is a universal tale of mothers and daughters--the battles that drive them apart and the love that brings them back together.
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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Little, Brown and Company
February 09, 2004
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