Radio Shangri-La, by Lisa Napoli

Radio Shangri-La Final imageLisa Napoli traveled to Bhutan, a small country sandwiched between India and China, after hearing it was “the happiest kingdom on earth.” She was given the opportunity to go without the daily $200 tourist tariff as long as she helped set up a radio station while she was there. While in Bhutan, she learned a lot about the culture and formed many relationships with people there. This is her memoir of that time.

When I accepted this book from TLC Tours, I didn’t know anything about the radio-station portion of this book. I’m not sure how I missed it when checking out what the book would be about, but I did. For some odd reason, I thought this was going to be straight memoir/travelogue with a focus and concentration on the culture and people in Bhutan. It wasn’t, and I admit I didn’t pay much attention to the parts about the radio. Those parts weren’t what drew me to the book. Instead, I sifted through them to get to the parts about Bhutan.

Napoli does a great job painting a picture of what an outsider sees of the culture there. She talks about the food, the house structures, the way the families interact, etc. It made me want to go read one of my Enchantment of the World books on Bhutan, but unfortunately, my library doesn’t carry that particular volume. Sad! No supplemental reading for me on this review. It was interesting to see how many similarities exist between this country and other small countries I’ve studied in the past, not even from the same part of the world, and it made me wonder about how culture changes as a country progresses technologically.

I was sort of sad to hear about the “advances” Bhutan was making, like for instance the introduction of fast food chains. That’s one part of modern society that I’m not sure is a great one to add. It was discouraging to see how the people were trying to become more Western, willing to leave behind a lot of their own culture for this “new and better” one. I’m always sad when I hear about things like that!

The part that interested me most in this book was the relationship Napoli forms with a girl named Ngawang. It starts more like a friendship and develops into something more mother-daughter, in both good and bad ways. I like that the book took Napoli back to the US and then back to Bhutan a couple times so we could see the contrast, especially when Ngawang comes to visit her in California.

This was a pretty good book, even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I’m interesting in learning more about Bhutan, which, like many people, I’d never even heard of before now.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2011, Adult, Prose and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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