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Most Americans are relatively ignorant of Hmong history and culture. In fact, many have a negative perception of this immigrant group. For example, few are aware of the fact that the Hmong fought on the American side during the Vietnam War. In this beautiful memoir, Yang recounts the harrowing journey of her family from Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand to the U.S. Eventually settling in St. Paul, Minnesota, their struggle was not over. Adapting to a new community that often did not understand nor want them was difficult. This difficulty was compounded by the fact that the Hmong, despite possessing a rich folkloric tradition, have no written language of their own. Determined to tell the story of both her family and her people, Yang intimately chronicles the immigrant experience from the Hmong perspective, providing a long-overdue contribution to the history and literature of ethnic America.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2008 Booklist
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Yang (cofounder, Words Wanted), of the Southeast Asian Hmong people, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980. Her family was forced to flee the Pathet Lao, of Laos, who singled out the Hmong in retribution for their aiding the Americans during the Vietnam War. With no homeland to return to and not necessarily welcome in Thailand, Yang's family took the opportunity to come to the United States and make a new life. Through all the tumult, Yang's grandmother was a particularly loving influence, providing strength and the stories that molded Yang's identity as a Hmong woman as her family settled in St. Paul, MN. Unable to trust her "voice" in English, Yang struggled in school until an English teacher recognized her talent and encouraged her writing. She is indeed a natural storyteller. Yang chronicles her family's journey and draws the reader into the Hmong culture with the stories she shares along the way. Most powerfully rendered is her relationship with her grandmother. Highly recommended for both public libraries and academic libraries with Asia collections.--Patti C. McCall, Albany Molecular Research, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Yang, cofounder of the immigrant-services company Words Wanted, was born in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand in 1980. Her grandmother had wanted to stay in the camp, to make it easier for her spirit to find its way back to her birthplace when she died, but people knew it would soon be liquidated. America looked promising, so Yang and her family, along with scores of other Hmong, left the jungles of Thailand to fly to California, then settle in St. Paul, Minn. In many ways, these hardworking refugees followed the classic immigrant arc, with the adults working double jobs so the children could get an education and be a credit to the community. But the Hmong immigrants were also unique-coming from a non-Christian, rain forest culture, with no homeland to imagine returning to, with hardly anyone in America knowing anything about them. As Yang wryly notes, they studied the Vietnam War at school, without their lessons ever mentioning that the Hmong had been fighting for the Americans. Yang tells her family's story with grace; she narrates their struggles, beautifully weaving in Hmong folklore and culture. By the end of this moving, unforgettable book, when Yang describes the death of her beloved grandmother, readers will delight at how intimately they have become part of this formerly strange culture. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved