Dorje Dolma / Yak Girl Book Tour
Dorje Dolma is the first woman writer from the Dolpo. She is a visual artist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal. Her mission is to inspire and educate others about the need for medical and educational resources in the Dolpo through writing, art and speaking. She is a dear friend and I am beyond honoured that she calls me David ajo, which means big brother, and invites me to call her Dorje numo, little sister.
In the spring of 2019, we sponsored Dorje’s book tour through the West Kootenay and Okanagan. I picked her up in Spokane and drove her, and several boxes of her books, across the border. Her paperwork wasn’t quite right and the border services officers initially refused to allow her books across. When they heard her story, we were not only waved through but one of them attended an event, and he bought her book!
Dorje was extremely well received at each stop on her book tour (9 events in 7 days!). At venues in Nelson, Vernon and Kelowna, Rossland and Castlegar attendance records were smashed!
One of Altitude’s goals with this project was to broaden our audience about our work in the Dolpo. Mission accomplished! The number of new donors and people interested in Altitude Project as a result of Dorje Dolma’s “Yak Girl” book tour exceeded expectations.
One of our favorite reviews of her book begins with, ‘Superhero alert: Dorje Dolma was seven years old when she confronted a snow leopard while herding her goats and sheep in an ice-cold Himalayan ravine…’
This is a great book club book. And, time and schedule permitting, Dorje will do Zoom presentations with Q&A for your group!
About the Book
“A rare and fascinating testimony, told from the inside, of a little girl who made an incredible trip from inner Dolpo to America—and from the Middle Ages to the 21st century.”
—Eric Valli, director of the Oscar-nominated film Himalaya
This unusual memoir immerses the reader in the fascinating story of a spirited girl in a remote, undeveloped region of Nepal near the border of Tibet, a place made known to the world in Peter Matthiesen’s The Snow Leopard. Life above 13,000 feet in northern Dolpo―often called the last paradise because of its breathtaking snow-capped peaks, untouched beauty, and hand-irrigated green pastures―was one of constant risk and harsh survival. In the 1980s, Dolpo had no running water, electricity, motor vehicles, phones, school, or doctors, other than the local lamas, trained in the use of herbs and prayer.
Dorje Dolma’s life centered around the care of her numerous younger brothers and sisters and the family’s sheep, goats, and yaks. At age five she began herding and was soon taking the animals high in the mountains, where she fought off predatory wolves and snow leopards. Covering her first ten years, the story takes Dorje from her primitive mountain village to the bewildering city of Kathmandu, and finally to a new home in America, where she receives life saving surgery.
With humor, soul, and insightful detail, the author gives us vividly told vignettes of daily life and the practice of centuries-old Tibetan traditions. She details the heartbreaking trials, natural splendors, and familial joys of growing up in this mysterious, faraway part of the world with its vanishing culture. The sharp increase in recent years of western trekkers to the area, and the introduction of modern communication and transportation, is causing rapid change in Dolpo. This wonderful and surprising tale of survival, loss, and self-reflection offers us entry to this difficult, yet magical place.
Above all, this is the inspiring story of an indomitable spirit conquering all obstacles, a tale of a girl with a disability on her way to becoming a dynamic woman in a new world.
Dorje at the Jaipur Literature Festival, in a panel discussion, and with Simon Winchester and Wade Davis
Dorje graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Fine Arts, Much of her work is mixed media, and all of her images integrate elements from her home in the Dolpo. She donates part of the proceeds from her book and her art to Dolpo medical and educational projects. Please have a look at her work here.
We also showed the award winning documentary film about her brother and her family The Only Son. Local news coverage dramatically increased the exposure of the work that we are doing in the Dolpo. Donations increased too, and we are incredibly grateful to Dorje! Once this pandemic is well behind us, we hope to arrange a Yak Girl book tour in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.
THE ONLY SON
was screened at the Nelson Civic Theatre.
Tickets were $11.
All proceeds went to the people of the Dolpo
The Only Son is a documentary about Yak Girl Dorje Dolma’s family and the challenge of keeping Dolpo’s ancient culture alive. Dorje’s brother, Pema, grew up in the Rokpa Children’s Home in Kathmandu. The film centres on their parent’s expectation that Pema will return to Dolpo when he graduates, marry a Dolpa woman, and manage the family land.
photo courtesy of Wiro Felix