Siblings of the Dalai Lama: Jetsun Pema and Thubten Jigme Norbu

  • Laurie Hovell McMillin


The autobiography of Jetsun Pema, one of the Dalai Lama’s sisters, offers the story of what readers might recognize as that of an authentic Tibetan. A Buddhist, a nationalist, and an exile, Pema possesses all the proper attributes, and the broad outlines of her story follow what seems to be a script in these exiles’ tales: the story of her childhood, an account of exile, some relation of her adult life, an expression of her devotion to the Dalai Lama. And, in a gesture that invokes the system of patronage, at the start of her Tibet: My Story, An Autobiography, Pema declares her reasons for writing:

We need the support of other peoples of the world. With the aim of a better understanding of the tragedy which has been plaguing my country, I felt that I could use my own 56–year-long life to tell the story of the suffering of an entire generation ofTibetans. In this way, my account would not be limited to the life of a single Tibetan citizen but would be the story of a whole nation.1

With this identification of “her story” with Tibet’s story, the title of the book gains significance. The colon in the title of the book-Tibet: My Story, An Autobiography—is to be read as an equal sign: Pema’s story is Tibet’s story; Tibet’s story is her story.


Life Story Emotional Speech Hotel Room Chinese Occupation Convent School 
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© Laurie Hovell McMillin 2001

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  • Laurie Hovell McMillin

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