A Mongolian Girl's Journey from Stigma & Illness to Empowerment

A personal message from the author:

I wrote this book because I want to change the narrative around owning your battle and turning it into your strength to positively change your life trajectory and ultimately, leverage your story to inspire others. We are all humans and all go through storms; nobody needs to be defined and stigmatized by their struggles. I hope that my book helps you understand that your struggle is your story and embracing every component of who you are, even the hidden parts, will influence your healing and growth process. With this book, I hope to instill in you the same curiosity I have in making sense of and articulating your previous experiences and allowing them to give you a new perspective.

When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with TB and I was encouraged to hide my disease due to fears of social stigma and discrimination. Hiding such an important part of my life created an internal struggle of questioning my identity. However, living abroad pursuing higher education, exploring new perspectives, and befriending individuals from different backgrounds made me realize that being a TB survivor was a part of my identity and I needed to embrace it. It took me almost a decade to realize that it is not something to hide, feel ashamed of, or be silent about. By remaining silent, I did not know then that I was unconsciously contributing to the root cause of the problem. And this is what compelled me to write this book; I could no longer be part of the silence.

After reading my story, I hope that people who are battling TB or other stigmatized diseases and challenges feel empowered to raise their voices and join me in the fight to break the silence and remove stigma together. I also hope that policy makers, civil society, and international organizations step up their efforts to not only treat TB medically, but also tackle the attached stigma. With this book, I hope to combine storytelling with activism around TB, stigma, and discrimination.

— Handaa Enkh-Amgalan

Stigmatized: A Mongolian Girl's Journey from Stigma & Illness to Empowerment teaches that our struggles are our stories, and that accepting every part of who we are — even the parts we hide — is essential to growth. Handaa Enkh-Amgalan offers readers the tools to reflect on and articulate their previous experiences, while empowering them to rediscover who they are and find hope. Enkh-Amgalan intertwines her journey battling tuberculosis and the associated, pervasive social prejudice with stories of growing up in the nomadic country of Mongolia and pursuing education abroad. She chronicles:

  • Her daily fight for a spot on the bus out of her shantytown in Ulaanbaatar
  • Sleeping just two or three hours a night for years as she studied English
  • Who she turned to the night she was evicted from her apartment a world away from home
  • How she proved skeptics – including family members – wrong about her destiny.

In her debut book, Enkh-Amgalan deftly and earnestly combines storytelling with advocacy, drawing parallels to other stigmatized populations and embracing survivor identity.

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