Kao Kalia Yang tells us in her book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir Review, about the Hmong people, who beginning in the 18-century migrated south from China, first to Laos, and then Vietnam. They became allies to America helping with the Vietnam war even before it was on the radar for most Americans. When the war ended they fled the country across the Mekong River into Thailand where they waited years before they were able to come to the United States.
Yang tells us about her Grandmother and what really is a love story of sacrifice for her Mother and Father. Once they arrive in America her parents and all their extended family live for each other, but especially to help their children benefit from being Americans. She tells us that the Hmong are in the end Americans first and Hmong in heritage.
Yang 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 it wasn’t possible. The Hmong left the jungles of Thailand to fly to America and then they settled in Minnesota and California. Like many immigrant groups before, the adults worked two jobs, so the children could get an education. The Hmong were different, having come from a non-Christian background, and a rain forest and jungle culture with no homeland to return to. People in America didn’t know anything about them, and when their kids studied the Vietnam War at school, their lessons never mentioned that the Hmong had been fighting for the Americans in that war.
Yang story of family and the death of her grandmother is touching. The Hmong’s sacrifices truly qualify them as pioneers and their story ought to be required reading for the insight into the strength of their family values and how they have grown through their hardships. This book is important, and America needs to know this story.
More On Hmong
As many as 20,000 Hmong soldiers died during the Vietnam War. Hmong civilians, who numbered about 300,000 before the war, perished by the tens of thousands.
From 1959 to 1973, the CIA trained Hmong tribesmen to fight against Communist insurgencies in Laos.
At the end of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s about 130,000 Hmong made their way to United States. Another 50,000 to 100,000 stayed in Thailand. About 400,000 remained in Laos.