Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia
Louisa Waugh, 2003
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
Summary: Hearing Birds Fly is Louisa Waugh's account of her time in a remote Mongolian village. Frustrated by the increasingly bland character of the capital city of Ulan Bator, she yearned for the real Mongolia. She got the chance to experience it when she was summoned by the village head to go to Tsengel, near the Kazakh border.
In the village, she must come to terms with the harshness of climate, the treatment of animals, death, solitude and loneliness, plus the constant struggle to censor her reactions as an outsider. Above all, Louisa Waugh involves us with the locals' lives in such a way that we come to know them and care for their fates.
With a skill and art quite extraordinary for a first book ... the reader is drawn into the world she describes through the warmth of her friendships and the sympathy and generosity with which she treats all aspects of her subject. I put the book down finally with a sense of absolute satisfaction, having spent the last few hours beneath the spell of a writer of real integrity and power ―Chris Stewart
An elegy to a remarkable part of the world.―SUNDAY TIMES
Waugh has captured the starkly beautiful landscapes in restrained descriptive passages, but the most fascinating aspect of her narrative is her portrayal of the villagers and the nomads she meets higher up the mountains... Hearing Birds Fly is extraordinary.―OBSERVER
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Jack Weatherford, 2004
Publisher: Broadway Books; New edition
Format: Paperback, 312 pages
Summary: The Mongol army led by Genghis Khan subjugated more lands and people in 25 years than the Romans did in four hundred. In nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization. Vastly more progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom, and smashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege. From the story of his rise through the tribal culture to the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed, this brilliant work of revisionist history is nothing less than the epic story of how the modern world was made.
Publishers Weekly: Apart from its inapt title, Genghis Khan dies rather early on in this account and many of the battles are led by his numerous offspring. This book is a successful account of the century of turmoil brought to the world by a then little-known nation of itinerant hunters. In researching this book, Weatherford (Savages and Civilization), a professor of anthropology at Macalester College, traveled thousands of miles, many on horseback, tracing Genghis Khan's steps into places unseen by Westerners since the khan's death and employing what he calls an "archeology of movement." … In just 25 years, in a manner that inspired the blitzkrieg, the Mongols conquered more lands and people than the Romans had in over 400 years. Without pausing for too many digressions, Weatherford's brisk description of the Mongol military campaign and its revolutionary aspects analyzes the rout of imperial China, a siege of Baghdad and the razing of numerous European castles. On a smaller scale, Weatherford also devotes much attention to dismantling our notions of Genghis Khan as a brute. By his telling, the great general was a secular but faithful Christian, a progressive free trader, a regretful failed parent, and a loving if polygamous husband. With appreciative descriptions of the sometimes tender tyrant, this chronicle supplies just enough personal and world history to satisfy any reader.
School Library Journal: Adult/High School–An interesting, thought-provoking account of the conqueror's life and legacy. From his early years as the son of a widow abandoned by her clan, he showed remarkable ability as a charismatic leader and unifier. In 25 years, his army amassed a greater empire than the Romans had been able to achieve in 400. Whether judged on population or land area, it was twice as large as that of any other individual in history. This colorful retelling discusses many of the innovations that marked Khan's rule and contributed to his success. Although his name is now erroneously associated with terror and slaughter, he showed surprising restraint during a time when few others in power did. He allowed freedom of religion, encouraged free trade, developed a paper currency, and observed diplomatic immunity. As he encountered new cultures, he adopted or adapted their best practices, and constantly updated his military strategies. Although Khan's death occurs at the midpoint of this book, the tales of his survivors' exploits and the gradual fall of the Mongol dynasties are engaging and informative. Weatherford's efforts to credit Genghis Khan and his descendants with the ideas and innovations that created the Renaissance are a bit bewildering, but readers will be left with a new appreciation of a maligned culture, and a desire to learn more.–Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
Jack Weatherford, 2011
Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Summary: After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, conflicts erupted between his daughters and his daughters-in-law; what began as a war between powerful women soon became a war against women in power as brother turned against sister, son against mother. At the end of this epic struggle, the dynasty of the Mongol queens had seemingly been extinguished forever, as even their names were erased from the historical record.
One of the most unusual and important warrior queens of history arose to avenge the wrongs, rescue the tattered shreds of the Mongol Empire, and restore order to a shattered world. Putting on her quiver and picking up her bow, Queen Mandhuhai led her soldiers through victory after victory. In her thirties she married a seventeen-year-old prince, and she bore eight children in the midst of a career spent fighting the Ming Dynasty of China on one side and a series of Muslim warlords on the other. Her unprecedented success on the battlefield provoked the Chinese into the most frantic and expensive phase of wall building in history. Charging into battle even while pregnant, she fought to reassemble the Mongol Nation of Genghis Khan and to preserve it for her own children to rule in peace.
Despite their mystery and the efforts to erase them from our collective memory, the deeds of these Mongol queens inspired great artists from Chaucer and Milton to Goethe and Puccini, and so their stories live on today. With The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford restores the queens’ missing chapter to the annals of history.
Booklist: Though the prolific Genghis Khan fathered numerous sons and daughters, historians have dutifully recorded the foibles and follies of his male heirs while virtually ignoring the accomplishments of his female offspring. Weatherford seeks to remedy this glaring omission by providing a fascinating romp through the feminine side of the infamous Khan clan. Surprisingly, old Genghis himself seems to have been impressed enough by the leadership abilities of his womenfolk to want to reward some of them with pieces of his vast empire. At least four of his daughters became queens of their own countries, exercising power over their courts, their armies, and, of course, their families. Important linchpins in the Mongol Empire, these women supplied the balance of power necessary to appease fractious tribes and territories. Unfortunately, soon after Genghis Khan’s death, the female rulers were challenged by their male relatives, and the fragile bonds that held the Mongol Empire together quickly disintegrated. Ironically, it wasn’t until the emergence of a new queen, two centuries later that the once-mighty Mongol nation was reunited. Let’s hear it for the girls. --Margaret Flanagan