Uuganaa is from Mongolia and lives with her Scottish husband Richard in Britain. She is in a universe completely removed from her home country, where as a nomadic herder she lived in a yurt, looked after livestock, and made vodka from goat’s yoghurt. Her world is shaken up when her third child, the new-born son Billy is diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. With his diagnosis she faces prejudice and bigotry, racism, and also support. “In this powerful memoir, Uuganaa skilfully interweaves the extraordinary story of her own childhood in Mongolia with the sadly short life of Billy, who becomes a symbol of union and disunion, cultures and complexity, stigma and superstition – and inspires Uuganaa to challenge prejudice.”
The book has beautiful descriptions of life in Mongolia, a country that I knew nothing about. What surprised me was the number of similarities between the Mongolian culture and the Indian. Both emphasize respect towards elders of the household, family life bordering on communal living, shaving of an infant’s head, large get-togethers and many others. It is worth noting that the books is a memoir, written by a woman whose English is not the best. Sometimes the narrative is repetitive and halting, since it is evident that she clearly missing her homeland, while looking forward to embracing the brilliantness of her husband’s culture.
Read this book, it is worth knowing about places that are remote and hidden, even in this world of over-sharing. Also read my Scottish friend’s blog – she lives in Inner Mongolia, China with her Mongol-Chinese husband.