I am seeking representation for my memoir, Whispers From the Valley of the Yak: One Woman’s Journey to Self-Discovery, complete at 86,000 words.
A 1980 trip to Chengdu, China, with my parents—where they were medical missionaries for fourteen years and I was born—forever alters my life. I am stunned to see love on my mother’s face when she reunites with Chinese friends she hasn’t seen since our harrowing departure from Chengdu near the end of World War II.
This poignant reunion sets me on a journey to know this open, loving woman so different from the distant, detached mother I grew up with. While successful in this quest, I realize only later how this journey has enabled me to know myself better.
In 1980 I feel a surprising affinity for China, given my childhood ambivalence. Living in rural West Virginia, I rejected my family’s connection to China because it made me feel different from my peers. Yet I loved hearing my father’s stories about their adventures. My favorite was their trek into eastern Tibet where they encountered yak in a high mountain valley and camped opposite the snow-covered Minya Gongka.
The landscapes I discover in China are reminiscent of Alaska, where I lived for four years and where I found a lifelong passion for nature and environmental work. I study Chinese and return to my birth country several more times, forming my own friendships, including with the daughter of my mother’s closest Chinese friend. I travel to new landscapes that tug at my soul with their beauty.
My affinity for China becomes a bridge that connects me to my mother, enabling healing and forgiveness.
After my parents’ deaths, I travel with my adult children to Chengdu where they witness firsthand the bustling medical university that brings alive their grandparents’ legacy. We retrace my parents’ path into Tibet to that same valley with the yak and experience the Minya Gongka ourselves. I feel profoundly linked with my parents across the years separating their adventure and ours.
Looking back on the journey I began in 1980, I recognize the fundamental breakthrough has been the discovery of my authentic self.