Mongolia Must-Reads: Young Mongols by Aubrey Menard

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Mongolia Must-Reads: Young Mongols by Aubrey Menard

Recently, I (Jess) had the honour of being invited onto the Soul of Travel podcast, a platform dedicated to spotlighting women who contribute positively to the tourism industry. Towards the end of the podcast, I was asked to recognise a woman in the field whom I admire, and without hesitation, I mentioned Aubrey Menard, whose book, “Young Mongols: Forging Democracy in the Wild, Wild East,” I focus on in this, our ongoing Mongolia Must Reads series. Menard’s profound affection for Mongolia is evident in her words: “Mongolia has become part of my way of life in a way that no other place has before or since.” But beyond her personal connection with Mongolia, I appreciate her portrayal of the country—an authentic representation that transcends the outdated stereotypes often perpetuated by tourism marketing. While many depict Mongolia as little changed since the era of Chinggis Khan, Menard’s writings reveal a dynamic democracy where change is embraced. Unfortunately, tourism tends to pigeonhole Mongolians into these stereotypes for the sake of selling tours. Therefore, I highly recommend Menard’s book as an excellent means to truly grasp contemporary Mongolia for anyone considering a visit.

“While some Mongolians still live a pastoral life, this is not the reality for a majority of the country’s citizens. More than half the country’s population lives in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and is engaged with day-to-day life in a modern, burgeoning metropolis. Young Mongolians are fighting for the rights of its LGBTQIA+ people, making hip art and music, and growing sustainable eco-friendly businesses. While Mongolia’s land is rich with natural resources, its greatest resource is its young people.”

 

Mongolia Must Reads: Book cover - Young Mongols

The essence of “Young Mongols” lies in its spotlight on Mongolia’s emerging leaders and activists, who tackle diverse issues ranging from pollution and environmental concerns to urban planning, education, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, inclusion of people with disabilities, and journalism. What sets this book apart is its approach of allowing these individuals to narrate their own stories, offering an authentic and multifaceted view of the challenges and solutions shaping contemporary Mongolia.

“The first Mongolians to live their entire lives under a democratic system are now only twenty-nine years old. They have grown up in a free and open society, reading and watching global media, voting in elections, participating in protest, and watching their peers push for greater democratic freedoms. The minds of these young Mongolian have been moulded n a truly different way from those of their parents’ generation, even those elders who fought for democracy themselves.

Today’s young Mongolians have strength in numbers – the average age in Mongolia is only twnety-seven and a half years old, with a full 64 per cent of the population aged thirty-four or younger…With such a significant young population growing up in the age of Mongolian democracy and exhibiting a strong commitment to democratic values through their advocacy and activism, Mongolia is likely to have a very bright future.

While there’s reason to hope for the future, many young Mongolians are frustrated today. They’re frustrated by ongoing corruption and the failure of their leaders to hold those accountable. They’re frustrated by seeing some people live in extreme luxury while many struggle to feed their families. They’re frustrated by not having clean air to breathe or access to running water. They’re frustrated that not everyone in the country has equal rights and protection under its laws. They’re frustrated, but they’re not sitting idly by: they’re getting up very day and working to change the very fabric of their country.”

You can listen to Aubrey Menard discussing several of the activists featured in her book and the evolution of Mongolia’s democracy in this Asian Review Of Books podcast.

“To young Mongolians, it may seem that the old guard of politicians and oligarchs are intractable, using their wealth to safeguard their positions and prevent true democratic change from taking hold. But history is long. Soon, these leaders will retire and pass away, leaving the country in the hands of those who are now young. When that happens, will they fall prey to the corrupting influence of power? Or, will these young Mongols hold strong to their values, ushering Mongolia into a democratic future where all its citizens live good lives, sharing in their nation’s prosperity? Based on the integrity, ingenuity, and fortitude of those young Mongolians whom I had the honour of meeting, I predict that the country will soon become a shining beacon of democracy from which the rest of the world will learn.”

Additionally, the book sheds light on small independent businesses, such as cafes and shops, that are not only worth visiting but also supporting, as noted by one reviewer. For more books on Mongolia – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/books-about-mongolia/.

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I'm Jess Brooks, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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