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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Thangkas are a rare form of fabric wall hanging depicting sacred figures of Tibetan Buddhism. Using a little-known technique called Tibetan applique, these detailed images are created by sewing together pieces of colorful silk. Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is one of few Westerners who has mastered this tradition. In Threads of Awakening: An American Woman's Journey into Tibet's Sacred Textile Art, she describes not only her transformation from an urban planner/economist working in India for the Tibetan refugee community into a full-time art student but also her spiritual journey as a follower of Tibetan Buddhism. A foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a preface by Tibetan art educator Pema Namdol Thaye, an appendix with instructions on the technique, a glossary, and photographs are included.
In Threads of Awakening, Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo gives us a wonderful blend of art and autobiography. Her writing style is engaging, well-paced, informative, detailed, and revealing. Just as the thangka communicates spiritual teachings through the puzzle piece-like details in the images created by the fabric, so the author explores the spiritual transformation she experienced as the pieces of her life came together like a puzzle when she saw her first appliqued thangka - an epiphany not unlike being struck by the proverbial light on the road to Damascus - which redirected her life. Bringing this art form to the West, making the study of it available to others from around the world through a virtual apprenticeship program, and helping to preserve a re-emerging traditional textile art that was nearly lost will surely bring many blessings. Highly recommended.