Let me preface this review by saying that this is not a book I would usually read or would naturally pick up if I saw it on a shelf, but when a publicist asked if I was interested in reviewing it for my blog, I thought, “why not?” I’ve been meaning to read more books about cultural experiences outside of my own. So if this book seems out of place on my more YA-oriented book review blog, that’s why.
Publisher: MapleInk Publishing
On a remote campus in the Black Mountains of the Himalayas, students at the Institute of Language and Culture Studies, Royal University of Bhutan, were asked to recall stories of their childhoods. Suzie Sims-Fletcher, their English lopen, taught them how to move from the oral tradition in Dzonghka to written composition in English. These selected tales are at once uniquely provincial yet poignantly universal. The collection offers striking memories of family and community, learning and growth, illness and death, tradition and celebration. An adaptable lesson guide to the story project (ESL, listening skills, writing), glossary of Dzongkha words and phrases, as well as vibrant full color photos of Druk Yul, Land of the Thunder Dragon, round out the 156 pages. Whether you are a tourist, teacher, or culture collector, Samu-Shamu: The Sonam Stories, captures the mist and earth of this magical kingdom in the sky.
Samu–Shamu: The Sonam Stories, Narratives of Childhood in Bhutan are stories written from childhood memories by students in Bhutan for an assignment by the author. It is a representation of final projects created by first year students in the author’s 2012 Academic Skills classes at ILCS (Institute for Language and Culture Studies, Royal University of Bhutan). It also documents the change in culture due to the introduction of technology and exposure to international influences (including the import of goods, availability of entertainment, and opportunities to travel).
One of my favorite aspects of this book is all of the photographs of the people of Bhutan. It gives insight into their economy, careers, fashion, architecture, religious celebrations, food, and overall culture. I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages to see more to better understand the book and the Bhutanese.
I think Samu–Shamu is a hard book to read all in one sitting, but it is written through narratives in a way that makes it easy to jump from one story to another without feeling like you are missing anything. All in all, this isn’t my personal cup of tea, as I do not gravitate towards non-fiction in my spare time. But even though it’s of a genre I tend not to read very often, I found myself enjoying this book. It gets a solid 3 out of 5 stars from me. I’d probably recommend Samu–Shamu to educators, as it has a more academic-bent to it. But whoever you are, it definitely won’t hurt to read it; you may even walk away a better person for having read it.
About the Author:
Suzie Sims-Fletcher is an international communications consultant and accent reduction specialist. She has previously published a teacher's guide to Voice and Articulation (Crannell), an encyclopedia entry on Betty Page, and countless stories and poems. An intrepid explorer and collector of stories, in addition to her unusual journey from Boston to Bhutan, her experiences range from extreme desert camping to racing hermit crabs, and wearing handmade costumes in national parades to spinning fire on an island beach. When not traveling the world practicing radical self-reliance, she hikes up to her fifth-floor apartment in New York City.