Monday, July 7, 2008

The Latehomecomer

I've just started The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, a story about a Hmong family's journey from Laos to Thailand to America. It's written by Kao Kalia Yang, a new Minnesota author. Several years ago, Yang, who is not even 30 years old, began writing down her grandmother's memories. Those memories turned into this book.

For the few pages I've read, I'm enjoying it. The book got high praise from Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, another book about Hmong culture and history that I really enjoyed. For more information on Yang, you can go to her Web site, or you can read this article on One quote from this article is just so heartbreaking and also so amazing that it comes out of someone's mouth who is just my age - though obviously much more worldly than me:

“There were lots of defeats,” remembers Yang. “One day, I was reading on the Vietnam War and noticed that the Hmong weren’t anywhere [in the account]. Just like the American history books I read all through college and all through high school – "Hmong" wasn’t mentioned anywhere. And yet, I knew that war was responsible for us being here, and that it killed two-thirds of the people I belong to. People are still dying in the jungles of Laos, remnants of this fight. In the process of writing this book, I learned that that wars don’t end." She pauses then says, "There were so many lessons. What happened to old men and women during and after the war? I looked for the answer to this question everywhere, but no one answered it satisfactorily. So, I faced the problem: how could I begin to tackle this question, especially as it concerned my grandmother, who was already old by the time this war had come?"

I also enjoyed this paragraph on her experience in grad school. As a writer, it hit home, because I've always questioned my experiences and wondered if they're worth applying to my writing (maybe it's an American thing?):

Yang adds that her singular purpose and passion for these stories gave her an advantage over some of the very talented writers she studied with in the MFA program at Columbia University. “They were writing about drugs, or about other things that I knew were part of the contemporary American landscape. But I never got the feeling that they were really quite convinced that that was their story to tell yet," she reflects. "But in my heart, I was already burning with a story."

I'll keep you posted as I read more.

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