cover image Lotus Girl: My Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and America

Lotus Girl: My Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and America

Helen Tworkov. St. Martin’s Essentials, $29 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-32155-8

In this stimulating and elegant memoir, Tworkov (Zen in America), the founding editor of the nonsectarian Buddhist magazine Tricycle, chronicles the lifelong search for answers that drew her to Buddhism. Born to an artist father and a melancholic mother, Tworkov was pained as a young adult by America’s role in the Vietnam War and mystified by the 1963 self-immolation of Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc (“as much as I looked for signs of torment, the photograph [did] not show a man in the throes of physical or mental suffering”). She traveled to Japan in 1965 and made her way through Asia, where she tried out meditation practices, pored over the works of Zen philosopher D.T. Suzuki, and generally sought “understanding beyond the limits of selfhood” through forays into Buddhism. After returning to the U.S. nearly two years later, Tworkov began studying Buddhism in the Tibetan and Zen traditions, but was perturbed by the sectarianism and scandals that plagued the American Buddhist community. In 1991, she founded Tricycle amid backlash from the “conservative” Buddhist establishment. With abundant self-awareness, Tworkov traces how she sought enlightenment only to find herself on a winding and ultimately rewarding Buddhist “path of confusion,” while also providing an incisive insider’s look at the naivete of the first generation of American converts to Buddhism. This enlightens. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Apr.)