"Li Juan spent minus-20-degree nights with nomadic herders in the Chinese steppes. You’ll want to join her." --Laura Miller, Slate
"Deeply moving...full of humor, introspection and glimpses into a vanishing lifestyle." --The New York Times Book Review
Winner of the People's Literature Award, WINTER PASTURE has been a bestselling book in China for several years. Li Juan has been widely lauded in the international literary community for her unique contribution to the narrative non-fiction genre. WINTER PASTURE is her crowning achievement, shattering the boundaries between nature writing and personal memoir.
Li Juan and her mother own a small convenience store in the Altai Mountains in Northwestern China, where she writes about her life among grasslands and snowy peaks. To her neighbors' surprise, Li decides to join a family of Kazakh herders as they take their 30 boisterous camels, 500 sheep and over 100 cattle and horses to pasture for the winter. The so-called "winter pasture" occurs in a remote region that stretches from the Ulungur River to the Heavenly Mountains. As she journeys across the vast, seemingly endless sand dunes, she helps herd sheep, rides horses, chases after camels, builds an underground home using manure, gathers snow for water, and more. With a keen eye for the understated elegance of the natural world, and a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, Li vividly captures both the extraordinary hardships and the ordinary preoccupations of the day-to-day of the men and women struggling to get by in this desolate landscape. Her companions include Cuma, the often drunk but mostly responsible father; his teenage daughter, Kama, who feels the burden of the world on her shoulders and dreams of going to college; his reticent wife, a paragon of decorum against all odds, who is simply known as "sister-in-law."
In bringing this faraway world to English language readers here for the first time, Li creates an intimate bond with the rugged people, the remote places and the nomadic lifestyle. In the signature style that made her an international sensation, Li Juan transcends the travel memoir genre to deliver an indelible and immersive reading experience on every page.
Chinese journalist Juan makes her stateside debut with a magnificent tale about traveling through the freezing tundra of northern China. After publishing her second book, Juan decided "to embark on an adventure truly worthy of an author" by engaging in a way of life the Kazakhs have practiced for centuries. She joined the Cuma family, a couple in their 50s and their 19-year-old daughter, as they moved livestock to their winter home, a remote region that stretches across the border between China and Kazakhstan. Their trek lasted three days and was followed by a crushing winter with temperatures dipping to minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit. Along the way, Juan learned the value of hard work and the symbiotic relationship between man and nature. She highlights the importance of the herders' chief survival tool, sheep manure, which is used to build animal pens and structures for human habitation in deep winter. She also recounts, in remarkable detail, learning the Kazakh technique of weaving textiles from the readily-available wool of the community's hundreds-strong flock of sheep. A seamless blend of memoir, travelogue, and nature writing, Juan's skillful prose paints an extraordinarily vivid picture of a remote world ("Nebulous nights etched with the moon's halo, and those dawns dim and gloomy"). This mesmerizing memoir impresses on every page.