The Latehomecomer

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Big Hair and Books Guest Post by Karah Hawkinson of Food Shelf Friday

Today I'm thrilled to welcome my friend, Karah Hawkinson to Big Hair and Books! Karah is an advocate for the world's hungry. Through her blog, Food Shelf Friday, she provides resources and inspiration to help you make a lasting, positive impact on people in need. She is also a wife and mother, and a museum historian.

The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia YangThe Latehomecomer
by Kao Kalia Yang
published by Coffe House Press

The Blurb

Thousands of Hmong families flooded refugee camps in Thailand and pressed on to America. Yang longed to tell her family's story, but the Hmong lacked a written language.

Karah's Take

Here in Minnesota, where I live, we have many Hmong people; most of whom came here as refugees during the 1980s. They are, for the most part, quiet, hardworking people, but when they were first arriving there was a lot of concern about them. Where are Hmong people from? What language do they speak? Why do they need to come to America? As is true of most immigrant groups before and since, they were mistrusted and often blamed for being a drain on American resources. Since there is no written Hmong language, there was little available to teach us about their history and culture.

One of these immigrants was a little girl named Kao Kalia Yang. She lived with her family in a Thai refugee camp until they came to the United States when she was 6 years old. Yang had been a chatty, smart child until she came to this foreign world with its strange language. She writes hauntingly of watching her parents go from a position of confidant authority to helpless submission. She helped her family, went to school, and eventually rediscovered her voice to tell us their story.

The Latehomecomer is Yang’s first book, but she writes with such a gentle, personal voice that it brings you right into the story, and you think she must have been writing forever. The book tells of the Hmong history and culture, as well as her family’s experience: their dramatic escape from Laos, life in the Thai refugee camp, coming to America, and making a place for themselves in their new homeland. She weaves together a sad and beautiful story of the people and events that shaped her.

This book is written for an adult audience, but I would have no qualms about sharing it with tweens and teens as well. I came away from the book with a new understanding and appreciation for the Hmong people and everything they have gone through. It opened my eyes to refugee and immigrant experiences as only a first-hand account can. I recommend it to anyone who just enjoys biographies/memoirs or is teaching or learning about immigration or the Hmong people. I have used this book in college courses on American history and immigration history, and we have used it in a book club, where it received good reviews from the members and stimulated meaningful discussion.

Other Books Karah Recommends

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis     For the Love by Jen Hatmaker