C. Alexander London is the author of
We Are Not Eaten By Yaks: An Accidental Adventure, and the forthcoming sequel, We Dine With Cannibals
. As Charles London, his grown-up alter ego, he wrote
One Day The Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War and Far From Zion: In Search of a Global Jewish Community
. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council andMyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.
It’s odd that a middle grade novel called
We Are Not Eaten By Yaks
about two eleven year old couch potatoes and their adventures should have its origins in a personal quest for Jewish meaning, but if I had not been for the scattering of the Jewish people, I never would have been in Rangoon to celebrate the High Holidays with a few of the last Jews in Burma, and I never would have written it.
I suppose I should start at the beginning, before I became a writer of books for younger readers.
I was in Asia doing research for what would becomeFar From Zion, a narrative of my journey through the far reaches of the Diaspora to figure out what it meant for me to be a part of the Jewish people. What did I have in common with a Jew in Rangoon? What did he share with a recent convert in rural Uganda? And what did all of us share with a Jewish community in Arkansas or with my Orthodox great-great grandfather who settled in Virginia or with the nephew of a Chasidic Rabbi in Jerusalem? What bound us together; why did Jewish community persist, and what was my place in it?
I took a trip, starting in Burma, to find out.
At the time, however, thousands of monks and pro-democracy protesters were clashing violently with government soldiers all over the country, and on Yom Kippur, things in Rangoon started to get crazy. I literally walked into the middle of the protests in front of a sacred Buddhist shrine in the center of downtown. Within twenty-four hours, the military junta, which controls Burma (and which they had renamed Myanmar) sealed off the country, shut down the internet and scrambled all western television. No CNN. No NBC. No Cartoon Network. And I really missed it.