Yangzom Brauen: Swiss-Tibetan Actress and Political Activist

Yangzom Brauen

Yangzom Brauen is an actress and political activist. Born in 1980 to a Swiss father and Tibetan mother, she lives in both Los Angeles and Berlin and has appeared in a number of German and American films. She is also very active in the Free Tibet movement, making regular radio broadcasts about Tibet and organising public demonstrations against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Her book, Across Many Mountains, tells the extraordinary story of three generations of  Tibetan women, from her grandmother’s escape from Tibet in the forties to the new journey and transformation that the family then found in the West. We are pleased to be featuring a special extract from Across Many Mountains here on www.litromagazine.com, which you can also read in our March issue, online and in print. Click on the link below to read the sneak peek:

Litro First Look: Across Many Mountains

Yangzom answers Litro ‘s questions about her earliest memories, her love of writing and the importance of truth in writing and in life below…

What is your earliest childhood memory?

When I look at the childhood photographs my parents took, my earliest memories start when I was about four years old. These pictures give me back the sensual feelings I had. I remember when I was four we went to Nepal and we had to walk for about five hours to a village and once we got there I was so looking forward for a great meal but the only thing we got was sticky rise, nothing else. I have many such memories about Nepal.

What makes you happy?

One of the best things about Los Angeles is the sun. Every morning when I have my breakfast outside with the morning sun wandering across my patio, it makes me happy. It also makes me happy when my parents and friends are happy.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved writing. In my early years I filled empty books about my every day life. Later I started writing for an online newspaper in Switzerland, but I never decided to become a writer. One day I was asked to write a book about my life and that’s how everything started.

What are you reading at the moment?

Mind of Clear Light, Advice on Living Well and Dying Consciously from H.H. the Dalai Lama.

What advice would you give to a first time writer?

Because I wrote a memoir it was important for me to tell our story truthfully. That is, the life of my grandmother, my mother and me. To stick to the truth in a biography without trying to make things up just to be more interesting, that was a very important thing for me.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

There is nothing I feel guilty about. Maybe someone else would see my pleasures as guilty but I don’t.

How do you relax?

When I have time I love to walk on the beach and sit there dreaming, looking at the horizon. Sometimes I am lucky and I see dolphins jumping out of the water and surfers waiting on their boards for a perfect wave. That makes me relax, just sitting there, watching what is going on around me.

What is your favourite book?

I, Phoolan Devi: The Autobiography of India’s Bandit Queen, by Phoolan Devi, Marie-Thérèse Cuny and Paul Rambali (published by Little, Brown and Co). Popularly known as “The Bandit Queen”, she was an Indian dacoit and later a politician. She was notorious across India during her time as a bandit.

What’s the worst job you’ve had?

I have liked all the jobs I’ve had although there have been ones where I started to get bored after a few months. In those cases, I stopped and looked for something new. While at school I made some side money as a model, I cleaned offices and worked in a movie theatre. During the summer breaks I worked as a waitress. As an actress I just love my job and have never had a job I hated. There is always a new challenge and that is what makes it so interesting.

What is the most important thing life has taught you?

To be truthful. Sometimes a lie is easier in the beginning, but at the end truth will always find its way.

Across Many Mountains” is published by Harvill Secker (Vintage Books at Random House) at £16.99 and available to buy from 3rd March 2011. You can find out more at www.vintage-books.co.uk or by clicking here.

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