January 26, 2009

Kung Hey Fat Choi...Gong Hoy Fat Choi...Gong Xi Fa Cai... and Happy Tet!

Graphic courtesy of the Chinese horoscope site.

Welcome to The Year of the Ox!

I still maintain that having two New Year celebrations is the best idea, ever. All of the resolutions that you've already blown through twenty five days ago are over -- so, you can start over while munching on a banh tet trung thu or mooncake, and decide that the Lunar New Year might work better for you!

The perfect book for this two-week celebration of the Year of the Ox is Kao Kalia Yang's The Late Homecomer. Conveying both the horror and the sweetness of a life lived in the midst of war, yet protected by a loving family, Kalia is a voice for the Hmong, a tribal people who lived peacefully in villages in Laos, until the CIA and The Secret War destroyed that way of life.


Kalia's memoir details the story of her family's escape from Laos to the refugee camp in Thailand, where she was born in 1980, to their immigration to St. Paul, Minnesota, when Kalia was about six. She talks about the grandmother who kept alive the traditions and the customs of the Hmong people, many of which were lost, as separate groups of Hmong were thrown together in the refugee camps, and re-educated in American ways. More than just the story of the Yang family or of the Hmong, this is the story of Kalia's grandmother, who named her, enchanted her, educated and loved her, and represented to Kalia the bedrock of everything she had ever known. In 2003 when she died, Kalia realized that her grandmother's life and the life of the Hmong was something everyone should know about, and she wrote it all down.

Kalia is a young writer whose engaging, clear narrative makes her family's history, and our shared Hmong and American history poignant. Her family's struggles and victories become our own, and young people looking for a book on a portion of American history they might not have read before will be able to devour this very readable book in a single afternoon.

Since we don't review non-fiction, at our book site, I sneaked this satisfying memoir in under Non-Fiction Monday status, and in honor of my little sister, whose birth people are Hmong. Happy Tet.



Buy The Late Homecomer from an independent bookstore near you!

1 comment:

Rohan said...

Lovely post, thank you, and moving, insightful review. I'm adding The Late Homecomer to my shopping list.