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From The Asian Reporter, V16, #48 (November 28, 2006), page 13.
Where home is
Where is Tibet?
By Gina Halpern
Snow Lion Publications, 1991
Paperback, 46 pages, $12.95
About 50 years ago — exactly when is arguable — the nation of Tibet went away. Whether the place was lost or re-assimilated, whether that transition was good or bad, legal or not, is not settled. Not emotionally, or culturally, or politically, and most significantly: not spiritually.
Arguments aside, what we can say with certainty is that a distinct people were awfully displaced and remain sadly so. Exiled Tibetan families have made hopeful communities in neighboring India and Nepal, in Portland, Oregon, indeed all over the place. This is a children’s book gently addressing aaall that. And of course, an important bit more.
Author Gina Halpern writes, "Today there are Tibetan children growing up in exile wondering where their homeland is. This book celebrates their spirit with hope for peace and restoration in their lifetime. Until that day let us keep the joy and freedom of Tibet alive in our hearts and minds."
And this she tries to do.
Where is Tibet is an artistic blend of Ms. Halpern’s interpretative style with what might be termed a Tibetan-like design aesthetic. Her forty-six-page book’s bright pastel pages are accompanied by English, Tibetan, and phonetic approximations of Tibetan words into English text — a thoughtful gesture to native speakers of both languages.
Thoughtful — no other word more singularly suggests the author’s effort in this lovely children’s book. "Where is Tibet?" Tashi and Pema ask their mother, ask their father. Their parents take out a map, their parents talk about magic beings, about the Great Peace Spirit, living there. But the kids’ (the geographic, the political, indeed: the empirical) question continues to hang in the air: "Where is Tibet?"
Here, Ms. Halpern’s rendering of His Holiness the Dalai Lama takes over and takes readers places perhaps most seamlessly travelled by children and mystics.
"Here is Tibet," His Holiness smiles, "Growing in your mind like a flower." And a few pages later: "Here is Tibet," holding Tashi in his lap. "In your heart, like the sun."
And there too, I imagine His Holiness and Ms. Halpern are telling us, is where peace, where happiness, where home, ultimately are.
There you have it, Tibetan Buddha teachings in all their simplicity, suppleness, and subtlety. And there we have it, you and me reading, our babies listening, the big and the small of it. A huge effort without a grunt.