By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Sept 29: The Vancouver-based Tibetan writer Tsering Yangzom Lama’s debut novel We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies, published in May has been shortlisted for the prestigious 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize. The jury presenter on Tuesday said that the “pages of the story are both a homage to survival and a home for the exiled.” Tsering competes for the prize of $100Kwith four other distinguished Canadian writers including Rawi Hage (Stray Dogs), Kim Fu (Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century), Suzette Mayr (The Sleeping Car Porter), and Noor Naga (If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English).
“Through a stirring intergenerational saga that spans decades and continents, Tsering Yangzom Lama deftly unearths how exiles create home when their homelands have been stolen. With tender authenticity, [the novel] delicately and vigorously illustrates the ongoing human cause of Tibetan displacement and the resolve of refugees to uphold the strong diaspora, despite the violence of colonialism,” writer and jury Waubgeshig Rice described how Lama’s story puts Tibetan women in the centre, bound by a “country to which they can no longer return”.
In an interview with CBC News in June, the author said that the stories of ordinary people that can pave a way for understanding Tibet’s complexity, “I would like people to remember Tibet, and to understand the profound historical catastrophe that my community has had to face and survive. No nation, no great power has put their might behind us. This is a massive story. And it cannot be understood simply through the abstract conceptual frameworks of international politics or the rhetoric of nation-states. It requires looking at the everyday realities of ordinary people — our spirituality, how we love, how we carry on.”
This year’s Giller prize winner will be announced on November 7 in Toronto, Canada. The winner is chosen following a rigorous selection process; Tsering’s book made it through to the five-book shortlist after getting long-listed amongst 14 titles from a pool of 138 books submitted by publishers all across Canada. Although the novel is likely to be released in India next year, Tibetans living in the West have written numerous reviews on the story’s relevance and its contemporariness on issues Tibetans face across the globe.
The Tibetan-Canadian writer is currently working as a Storytelling Advisor at Greenpeace International where she guides and trains offices around the world in narrative strategy. The debut novel is a New York Times Summer Reads Pick and has been long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Toronto Book Award. Lama holds an MFA degree from Columbia University and a BA degree in International Relations and Creative Writing from The University of British Columbia (UBC).