Read The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang Online


In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, The Latehomecomer is KaIn search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, The Latehomecomer is Kao Kalia Yang’s tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together. It is also an eloquent, firsthand account of a people who have worked hard to make their voices heard.Beginning in the 1970s, as the Hmong were being massacred for their collaboration with the United States during the Vietnam War, Yang recounts the harrowing story of her family’s captivity, the daring rescue undertaken by her father and uncles, and their narrow escape into Thailand where Yang was born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp.When she was six years old, Yang’s family immigrated to America, and she evocatively captures the challenges of adapting to a new place and a new language. Through her words, the dreams, wisdom, and traditions passed down from her grandmother and shared by an entire community have finally found a voice....

Title : The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781566892087
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 277 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir Reviews

  • Amy
    2019-06-28 09:37

    This book hit home for me, literally. Yang and her family move to Minnesota and settle into a housing project very near where I lived when I was in elementary school. Due to the high Hmong population in St. Paul, I went to school with a handful of Hmong kids and reading this memoir makes me realize that although I was in classes with these kids, even had desks adjacent to some of them, I definitely did not appreciate who they were and what some of them were going through at the time. I have no doubt in my mind that many of their stories are similar to Yang's. They, like her, tended to be the quiet ones, the ones more apt to listen first and only speak when necessary. Her story also helps me appreciate my present situation that much more. The school I currently teach at has quite a few dorm students, most from Asia, with English being a second language. We recently went through a session discussing how to accommodate these students, and her story aligns with the tidbits learned in my session. For one, being afraid to speak because misspeaking is far more humiliating than not speaking at all. These kids are sent far from home for an opportunity, but they are sent alone. The pressure that must be on their shoulders to succeed! And although many of them come from money, others' parents scraped up all they had to give this chosen child the chance to gain an education, and therefore the key to a successful future. I greatly appreciate books like these:ones that help me expand my all too limited view of life, especially life in America.

  • Chrissie
    2019-07-05 12:36

    I loved this book because it emotionally moved me. I want to feel connection with those I read about, and I certainly did that here. The book tells about the Hmong people - their traditions, their culture and the role their people played in the Vietnam War. In what is called The Secret War Hmong boys from Laos were recruited to fight against communist forces. After the Vietnam and Laotian Wars, hundreds of thousands of Hmong refugees fled to Thailand seeking political asylum. We follow these events through the author’s family. We are told personal tales, the dramatic crossing into Thailand and of tigers, ghosts and spirits of the dead. In Laos the author’s grandmother was a shaman. We learn of the parents’ marriage. We learn of how the author’s mother, father and infant sister, Dawb, tied together in one bundle, crossed the Mekong River into Thailand. The Hmong were people of the mountains and knew not how to swim. In Thailand the three were joined by the paternal grandmother and others of the family. The author was born in 1980 in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, where they had come to live. This camp was followed by six months in a transition camp when it was decided they would immigrate to the US. Six miscarriages had followed the birth of Dawb and Kalia; pressure was placed on her father to take a second wife since no male heir had been born. America was the solution, a future for the children and escape from family and cultural pressure. In the summer of 1987 they arrived in St Paul, Minnesota. You can go to Wiki and read about this, but there you will not glimpse the personal stories behind the events. It is the personal that makes what we are told engaging. We learn of life in Laos before emigration, life in the refugee and transition camps and life in America as an immigrant. All is movingly told. We read of the author’s coming of age story, the family’s struggle to survive, as well as the death of her beloved grandmother. I am giving you the outline, but I am not giving you the details and it is details that engage.Watching grow the love between granddaughter and grandmother is what makes the death of the grandmother, when it comes, all the more poignant. Many perhaps take education for granted. When you see how the author’s parents struggled to give their children a better life and the value they placed on education, well, you think twice. Part of the reason I loved the book is that the story is told simply. The grandmother said, “Tell it the way it is!” The author does. Simple language captures what family members reallysay to each. This comes through so wonderfully because English is not the author’s native tongue. She struggled to make it her own. We watch here the struggle to find a home. The author reads her own audiobook. Her emotions are vivid and they come through with intensity. Her voice quavers. You hear she is close to tears. Sometimes I had a hard time grasping a word, and sometimes I had to rewind. I always did rewind because I didn’t want to miss one single word. I found myself sitting with my ear close to the loudspeaker. Her voice is not loud; it is thin, treble and meek, yet no one but her should read this book! Personally, I think her telling me of her life is better captured this way than through written lines. If you can’t deal with a story that will tear you apart and involve you emotionally, maybe then just read the paper book. Listening to this is an emotional experience you will not forget. I also listened to the author’s second book: The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father. That focuses on the author’s father. It is better to read The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir first; it will then be easier to understand the second. The second book skims over that found in the first book. They are not repeats. I have given both five stars. I can also recommend The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, but in fact I think Kao Kalia Yang’s are better.

  • Amy
    2019-06-25 15:35

    Lovely, moving, highly recommended.

  • Rock
    2019-07-03 09:01

    I've been flagellating trying to write a review of this story, I think because I want so badly to relate it to the multitude of political cultural historical events that it skirts, always affected by them but rarely addressing them. That is a credit to Ms. Yang, who establishes herself here as a powerfully lyrical writer, with both feet firm in what I (as an ignoramus) imagine to be the Hmong oral tradition. Though these pages together are a memoir, the Latehomecomer is not Ms. Yang but rather her grandmother, whose stories pepper the larger narrative of this book, adding flavor to the saga of a refugee family, already a spicy broth. So we read not just the tale of a young family escaping through jungles thick with danger to starve in the squalor of a refugee camp and eventually transmogrify timidly into Minnesotans, but we delight in the legends of a pre-literate culture and weep with its brutal reality as experienced by this latehomecomer. And of course the veneration the author has for her grandmother reminded me of my own elders, who may not have raised their siblings or crossed oceans, but went through tribulations specific to their time and our place but I guess due to their age relative to mine are reminiscent of the titular character of this book. Hmmm, maybe the tortured prose of this review is indicative of all that flagellation. Well damn it was a good book and I don't want to quit talking about it.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-07-04 12:42

    When the United States withdrew from Vietnam, they left the Hmong people in dire straits. One third of them were killed during the war, one third were the victims of genocide by the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao soldiers. Those that were alive fled to the jungles and tried to hide and eke out a sort of life. This is the story of Kao and her family, written and narrated by her and the characterization are very vivid and poignant. She herself, was born in Thailand, in a refugee camp, after her parents had to flee the jungles and try to get Thailand. Unbelievable the will and the strength these people showed again and again. After many years, many different camps, they were relocated to the states, the camps in Thailand were shut down. This was the last time her whole family would be together. The adjustment period, trying to hold on to a culture, only wanting a home, a place they could call home. So much of their culture had been lost, it made it even more important to hold on to what was left. The cultural references were many, in Laos, a child did not go to school until they could raise their right hand over their head and touch their left ear. One must always have something of the mother, so that she could be found after death. I came to admire these people, their culture, the love they have for family and their tenacity in the face of so many tragedies and difficulties. I am so glad this young woman, chose to write her story so that we would read and understand. I loved the pictures that were included in the book, it always seems more personal when one can see the faces of those one is reading about.

  • Shomeret
    2019-07-09 13:54

    The only book I'd read about the Hmong previously was The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Culturesby Anne Fadiman. I felt that Fadiman was portraying the Hmong as a mysterious puzzle to be solved. This is the first book I have read from a Hmong perspective. It humanizes the Hmong and gives them more of a context. I place the Hmong in the context of other independent spirited mountain peoples with distinctive cultures such as the 18th century Scottish Highlanders or the Kurds. The style of the author is closer to spoken English. As a result, the grammar is not completely correct. The library copy that I read contained corrections in pencil from a reader of the painfully correct school of grammar. Yes, it's true that the author was using "her" when she should have utilized "she" on many occasions, but "her" is more comfortable. As I listened to the corrected version of the sentence in my head, it sounded awkward. For better or for worse, common usage has changed.

  • Rachel
    2019-07-04 09:56

    I really enjoyed this book. Growing up around several Hmong people, I was shocked that I did not know the Hmong story. I read this book and it whetted my appetite to learn more about the Hmong people. Next, I read "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down." This book explains the Hmong plight very well, and helped me understand The Late Homecomer more. My favorite part in this book was when the family came to the United States and she writes how they took a bath with a strange smelling soap and didn't smell like Thailand anymore. It is such a bittersweet picture.

  • Mark
    2019-06-17 07:53

    As part of an immigration project I'm working on, I recently spent a lot of time interviewing members of the Hmong community in Minneapolis-St. Paul. For those who don't know, the Hmong are an ancient Chinese tribe that centuries ago moved mostly to Laos, where they fought for the Americans during the Vietnam War.This of course put them in great jeopardy after the war ended, and thousands of Hmong fled to refugee camps in Thailand and then to the U.S., where the largest single concentration now lives in St. Paul. Kao Kalia Yang tells about this journey through her own family, particularly the role of her grandmother, who by the time she died a few years ago had 300 direct descendants living in the U.S.The memoir is fascinating and generally well done, although there were times when I felt Yang's English as a second language was evident -- small grammatical or syntactical anomalies. But she does a good job of evoking the people in her story, the deep-forested jungle of Laos, the barren crowding of the refugee camps, and the adjustment to a cold, foreign landscape in the Twin Cities. Probably most winning for me, though, were the stories told by various Hmong family members, both traditional ones and the way they expressed their own journeys through life. Captured in this book is the common aspiration of many immigrants, to find a new home, to do better for their children, and in the Hmong's case, to escape a history full of death and fear. The Hmong traditionally believe that when someone dies, a spirit guide leads her back to her homeland, and the three day funeral has a ceremony in which her path is traced backwards through all the places she lived, as she journeys back to the bamboo platform on which she was born, where she "fell from the clouds" as a baby, as the Hmong believe, before reuniting with those who preceded her in death.This was the most moving and powerful part of the book, but as a whole, The Late Homecomer gives voice and heart to a people still little known to many Americans.

  • Rach
    2019-07-07 08:03

    Halfway through this book I decided that it should be required reading for any non-Hmong person who lives in the Twin Cities/western Wisconsin or in California's central valley--any place where the large numbers of Hmong families have resettled. I later found out it is required reading this year for the incoming class at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. I learned a lot about the incredible struggles faced by the Hmong during and after the Secret War in Laos. The writer's voice is clear and lyrical. She is able to capture her experience as a child, born in a refugee camp, whose parents and grandparent underwent immense suffering while trying to find safety and stability for their children. She also beautifully conveys her childhood experience in the Thai refugee camps and her family's resettlement in St Paul, Minnesota--how necessary her family bonds were for their survival and, as many immigrants know, how incredibly hard they worked to provide for their families. I couldn't put this book down and highly recommend it.

  • Claudia
    2019-07-13 09:54

    Kao Kalia Yang's written words read just like her spoken words sound - eloquent, sparse, and powerful in their own quiet, poetic way. Kalia's book is the first novel published by a Hmong American woman, and as a creative non-fiction memoir of her family's migration from the hills of Laos to refugee camps in Thailand to the cities of Minnesota, it makes a beautiful addition to the long history of Hmong storytelling as well as a promising start to what is likely to be an incredible career for Kalia and a long future for Hmong American writing. Having had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Kao Kalia several times, I can only say that this book more than meets my expectations, and I wish her the best of luck with it, although is is not really needed.

  • Kay
    2019-07-04 08:44

    My introduction to Hmong people was when I first visited my daughter's family who had just moved to Wisconsin. There was a large, happy group of Asian people at the park. She told me they were Hmong. "What is Hmong?" I asked. She said they were from Viet Nam. She was sort of right. They did live in Viet Nam, but really they are a race, a culture, a community without a country. My daughter has since made many friends with Hmong, one of whom recommended she read this book. She did and recommended it to me. It is the true story of an Hmong family who are hunted in the jungles of Viet Nam (after they assisted us in the Vietnamese war) until they escape to Thailand by swimming the Mekong River (with a baby strapped to the mother and a small scrap of embroidery her mother had made tucked between she and the baby.) They live in a refuge camp there for six years, then a transition camp for a few months, then come to America. Hmong families were sent to California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. This large family was split- some sent to Minnesota, some to California. They struggle to survive, but express gratitude every day for the opportunity to live in America. This is their story, as told by the second daughter of the youngest son of this large family. Her purpose is to preserve the history of the race and the culture, and specifically, her family's history- mostly her beloved grandmother's life story. The author's ( Kalia) father instructs her on what to write when he learns she is writing the book with this powerful statement. He says,"It is very important that you tell this part of our story: the Hmong came to America without a homeland. Even in the very beginning, we knew that we were looking for a home. Other people, in moments of sadness and despair, can look to a place in the world: where they might belong. We are not like that. I knew that our chance was here [America]. Our chance to share in a new place and a new home. This is so important to our story. You must think about it, and tell it the way it is." I am amazed that all of this happened in my lifetime and I knew nothing about it. In fact, I read the book in a very personal way, as Kalia's parents started their family about the same time we started ours. As they were being married in a jungle, hoping they would survive and the ceremony would not be interrupted by the Vietnamese soldiers hunting them, mine was performed in a beautiful temple with a large gathering of friends and family. A few months after they had their first baby girl in a dirty hut, after being captured and held prisoner(they were later able to escape.) I was having mine in a sterile hospital. My second daughter was born in the same month(December 1980) as their second daughter- the author of the book. She was born in a filthy refuge camp in Thailand, delivered by her grandmother. My daughter was delivered by a doctor and was brought home in a large Christmas stocking to celebrate Christmas around a beautifully decorated tree. It was impossible to read this book without feeling gratitude for my blessings. I enjoyed being immersed in a culture very different from mine. I learned a lot. Though there are many differences, I can't help but see the many similarities as well. The love of family, the desire to preserve one's personal and family history, and the desire to succeed and make a difference in the world are all so much a part of all. I conclude that we are more alike than different. We are all part of the human family, and though they don't understand it yet, children of the same God. I wish I could share that message with these remarkable people. Thank you, Ms. Yang, for so beautifully sharing and preserving your important story.

  • Catherine
    2019-07-16 15:02

    This is a beautiful memoir, deftly written, and the arc of three generations of women's lives gives a wonderful resiliency to the text. There are repeated images - walking; typing; struggling to speak - but within the disparate worlds of Laos, Thailand, and the United States each theme takes on a different resonance. The author's focus on words - spoken, then written, and the relationship between the two in more than one language - is haunting, and I got chills when she wrote an essay in high school, typing with her index fingers through the night, the act recalling her mother's dream of marrying an educated man and learning to type with quick, agile fingers.I suspect this is a book that I'll be thinking of for a long time - it feels as if it's slipped slowly into my bloodstream and there's more within the pages than I understand right now. But I'm grateful that it exists, that Kao Kalia Yang was able to capture the stories that so many Hmong lost in the jungles of war-torn Laos, and that her words challenge us to think about the precious stories we lose among the textbooks and history classes and newspaper headlines of a cheerfully amnesiac United States.

  • Shana
    2019-06-20 07:46

    Kao Kalia Yang tells her family's story from the jungles of Laos to the projects of St. Paul and beyond with grace, humor, compassion and wonder. She retells her grandmother's stories with a respect that leads one to truly appreciate the ease of our lives.Yang struggled as a child with English, school, and double expectations. She has overcome obstacles most of us couldn't and has become a gifted storyteller, just like her grandmother.As I drive around St. Paul after finishing the book, I find myself looking at University Ave differently, thinking about her grandmother's funeral as I drive by the Hmong Funeral Home, watching the Hmong kids at school -- how much their lives have changed from their parents/grandparents.Thank you for such a personal glimpse into a story that lives all around me.

  • Mcgyver5
    2019-06-28 10:36

    I worked with a Hmong guy for about a year and he told some stories about the fighting in Laos. He had a lot of kids. It is easy to imagine him as one of this woman's uncles. He had a similar history in St. Paul as her family. It was really interesting to read about her introduction to America, Minnesota and especially the St. Paul Public School system.The way she explains her grandmother, the central character of the story, is so slow, showing and not telling, leaving out over-wrought psychological theories and family drama around this or that cousin who was screwing up. What is left is a beautiful account of her grandmother's life and Hmong culture from someone who grew up Hmong and got the ability to see it from enough of a distance to be able to write about it without ceasing to be a part of it.

  • Lauree
    2019-06-25 11:01

    It is good to know about the struggles of the Hmong people. The author is about four years younger than me, so all of her family's efforts to survive have taken place while I was living a parallel comfortable life. It is healthy to make this comparison and see that they have the same needs and desires and capabilities as my family. They just haven't been as fortunate. This book is beautifully written. What talent!

  • Aaron
    2019-06-20 07:59

    This was a great, great book about what happened to the Hmong after the Vietnam War. Very lyrically written, and heartbreaking in the raw emotion it conveys. Tells the true story of her family who had to hide for four years in the jungles of Laos while being hunted by Vietnamese soldiers. After one too many close calls with death, the dad decides to swim across the 1/2 mile wide Mekong River while towing his daughter, wife, and mom even though he didn't know how to swim, just so they can reach the refugee camps in Thailand. They stayed in one refugee camp for a month where “The dominant feature of the camp was the stench of feces” until they were shuttled to another one called the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. It was in this camp that Kao Yang was born, where most of what she remembers was dust everywhere; that gets in her throat, her nostrils, makes it difficult to breathe. Finally, when she's six years old, her family is able to move to America, where they have to figure out how to live when they don't know much English, and don't have any money.I feel ashamed that I don't know more about the plight of the Hmong seeing as I live in one of the three states where Hmong are most prevalent, and especially because my faith is Lutheran, who played a major role in getting the Hmong to America. The CIA from the United States recruited Hmong to help fight in the Vietnam War, and then mercilessly abandoned them and ignored the other countries that forsook the peace treaty. I would almost cry that there is a conspiracy that we don't cover the history of the Hmong and the Vietnam War in school, except that I also don't think I've ever learned about WWII, as the teachers always run out of time before we reach that far in the textbook. However, people need to be learning about the Hmong, as they are still being killed in Laos right now, even as you are reading this. The atrocities have not finished occurring. I hope that every high school student spends a unit learning about the Vietnam War, and what happened to the Hmong. The Latehomecomer is a powerful, moving book that everyone has to read.

  • Zen Cho
    2019-06-21 14:42

    Strikingly beautiful memoir by Kao Kalia Yang, whom I heard of through the Radiolab controversy last year -- lovely, sad and loving.Though perhaps it's not for me to say, not being As-Am, I think it's a very valuable representation of an Asian-American experience not often described -- one that's on the opposite end of the spectrum from your Tiger Mothers. The things Yang talks about -- the vulnerability of her parents and grandmother, the role reversal when kids have the skills to navigate a new country and the elders don't, how hard it is to maintain dignity when people look down on you -- they feel familiar, though of course I've had a much more privileged upbringing and background.The bit about her grandmother's death is AGONY -- it goes on for pages and pages and you feel so sad, but not in a bad way because her grandmother is obviously so loved, and it's so lovely that there is this tribute written for her.I thought it was a very brave book -- less because of the awful hard things she and her family have survived, including war and racism and having to live on welfare and learn how to live in a totally different country, though of course they were brave for surviving that, and more because Yang is willing to be vulnerable. And the book is founded in love. I admire it tremendously.

  • Jenny
    2019-06-26 07:52

    My mom gave me this book after meeting Kao Kalia Yang at an in-person event. I had heard of the Hmong people but knew nothing of their story. I found the account of the author's family's struggle during the Vietnam War to be so sad and heart-wrenching... no one should have to endure the fear and danger that they lived through. There is a quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness." In this book, I traveled with Yang's family to Laos, then to Thailand and finally to America. Walking in her shoes has made me see the world in a bigger and more colorful way. The biggest surprise for me was reading about her transition to America. I expected Yang and her family to be in love with the American life and have a positive experience in the U.S. from day one. Why did I think that?! It was very, very difficult for them both financially and culturally. Finally, the ending of the book was a tear-jerker for a straight 20 or 30 pages! What a beautiful book that first opened my mind learning about a place that is so different from my own, and then opened my heart with a story about family that is no different from my own love for my family and their love for me. I recommend this book to anyone, especially Americans who will finish this book smarter and much more compassionate than when they began.

  • Julie
    2019-06-25 13:00

    Although I was aware of the sudden influx of Hmong immigrants into Minnesota when I was living there in the late 80’s, I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know much about them until I read this book. Kao Kalia Yang was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and emigrated with her family to St. Paul, eventually growing up to attend Carleton College. This is both her story, of the immigrant child trying to fit in, but even more it is the story of her family. She is raised with the stories of her family’s past: her grandmother’s hard life raising 10 children, the persecution of Hmong by North Vietnamese soldiers, her family’s escape into the Laotian jungles, where they lived on the run for four years before a final crossing into Thailand. She writes movingly about the Hmong people’s lack of written language and her attempt to rectify this by recording the stories that were bequeathed to her.

  • Jane
    2019-06-24 14:00

    Minnesota author, Kao Kalia Yang, wrotes a beautiful, deeply moving memoir of her family's journey from Laos to America. She captures the essence of their struggles leaving Laos, in the refugee camp (where she is born) and assimilating to an American-Hmong lifestyle. She laces their story with the thread of the elders unending hope that their offspring would have better opportunities making their sacrifices worthwhile. There are many inspirational and tear jerking passages that touched me deeply. This book created the depth that gave me more knowledge and insight resulting in a deeper level of respect for the Hmong people, their history and their culture.

  • Cori Edgerton
    2019-07-10 15:37

    A beautiful, well written memoir that describes one Hmong family's journey from the Secret War and its aftermath in Laos and Thailand to coming to America as refugees and trying to obtain the "American Dream" while still holding onto their culture. Very relevant in today's world with the plight of Syria as well as a part of history that is not discussed in the classroom, I highly recommend The Latehomecomer to anyone who enjoys stories of struggle, determination, family, history, and traditions.

  • Jane
    2019-07-10 13:52

    This has been on my "to-read" list for quite some time, and I'm glad that my upcoming Carleton reunion prodded me into prioritizing it (the book will be discussed as part of my class's "special events" at our June reunion). I've often wondered exactly what the "before" life was like for people who were former refugees in Southeast Asia--my residence in Worthington has allowed me the privilege of meeting and knowing so many people from that background--and Kao Kalia Yang, with whom I'm proud to share a Carleton connection, describes the reality of "jungle living" and life on the run from death and war. Also, the condition of these refugee camps, which to my ear of white privilege always sounded somehow like safe and comfortable places, is depicted in vivid detail--and the camps are certainly not anyplace anyone would choose to live if they didn't have to. And yet her family spent years languishing in the camp where Yang was born before finally realizing that getting out, and preferably to the United States, was their only hope for long-term survival. Yang's writing is excellent and wonderfully illustrates what it means for Hmong (and likely also Karen) people to have made their homes in Minnesota and, to a lesser degree, elsewhere in the United States. If you want to gain a better understanding of, literally, where these people are coming from, I heartily recommend that you read "The Latehomecomer"--and the sooner, the better. It's captivating (and the 20 pages it takes Yang to detail her grandmother's funeral is evidence of just how important that person is/was to her family).

  • Sharon
    2019-07-12 14:56

    This is a family memoir told from the perspective of the second oldest girl in a large Hmong family, from their life-altering escape from Laos to Thailand where they spent time in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, to their emigration to St. Paul. The title refers to Kao Kalia Yang’s struggle to understand and accept the desire of her parents to leave the land of her young childhood for a better life in the U.S. For years she is silent, not quite understanding why her parents worked so hard to achieve so little yet never waver in their dedication to being in this country and its opportunities of a better life for their children. Kao slowly finds her voice in literature which leads to a degree from Hamline University. While there her beloved grandmother dies, whose story, traditions and struggle to hold her family together are the inspiration for the book. Her grandmother’s final journey home via the funeral traditions of the Hmong is a moving tribute to love and family bonds. Kao writes this a book as a tribute to her grandmother and to tell the experience of a homeless people. In the words of her father: ”It is very important that you tell this part of our story: the Hmong came to America without a homeland. Even in the very beginning, we were looking for a home. Other people, in moments of sadness and despair, can look to a place in the world: where they might belong. We are not like that. I knew that our chance was here. Our chance to share in a new place and new home. This is so important to our story. You must think about it, and tell it the way it is.”In the words of Kao: “What happened to the Hmong happened before us and will happen again after us. It is one group and then another. We were afraid. Now, we are beyond the fear.”

  • Francine
    2019-06-28 15:55

    This morning I finished rereading The Latehomecomer to get ready for the Golden Valley Reads events related to the book, the author, and the Hmong community and culture. Yang's descriptions evoke the senses in many ways. So much of this book touched my heart, especially for me the last few chapters concentrating mostly on her grandmother's stories and aging. I felt like I sitting with Yang, her grandmother, and her family, and for the first time in my recent memory I teared up and cried while reading. I want to shout out--Read this book if you haven't!

  • Sue Olson
    2019-07-12 14:38

    This story needs to be told and Kao Kalia Yang has done a beautiful job. The Hmong suffered tremendously in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and many of them relocated to Minnesota. I have read several books recently about the immigrant experience and have a great deal of empathy for them. This line particularly resonated with me:"You do not think so much about hunger if you have never been full."

  • Kristin Boldon
    2019-07-10 13:59

    Three and a half stars, I think. A tremendous, moving story of a refugee Hmong family. I learned a great deal about a people and their history. The writing felt like it could use a sharper edit, though, with plot and characters needing to be sharpened.

  • Lauren Donahue
    2019-06-18 14:03

    I read this for a book group and thoroughly appreciated it. I doubt that I would have picked this book to read on my own, because I tend to prefer fiction to nonfiction, but I am glad I read it because it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and broaden my book horizons. Not only was it well written and thought provoking but it did genuinely make me see things through another persons point of view. Eye opening and emotional from start to finish.

  • Lara
    2019-07-03 07:34

    DNF: Too sad, too repetitive. I don't really understand why The Big Read chose this book. I'm sure there are many better choices to share the immigrant and refugee experience.

  • Sarah
    2019-07-04 13:01

    Thank you Kao Kalia Yang for finding your voice and telling your story.

  • Amy
    2019-06-19 11:52

    An amazing true story that every human being on Earth should be required to read.