Kao Kalia Yang was born in 1980 in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand, a place that she called home for years. Her parents had somehow navigated the awkward stages of affection while hiding out with family among the bomb-ridden rainforests in Laos, eventually ending up in the camp where they raised their two young daughters, Kao and Dawb. There her family, and many others, suffered illness, malnutrition, and homesickness. Though her grandmother was wary of the proposition of America, when Yang was six years old her family made their way to California, then St. Paul. Like many first-generation families, they struggled to make ends meet, and Yang recounts difficulties she and her family faced adjusting to their new home, not only struggling with language barriers but also with Americans oblivious to Hmong customs and history. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir traces three generations of the Yang family, shifting smoothly from the narrative perspective of her late grandmother, who inspired this memoir, to her parents, and herself. It tells a tale as poetic as it is informative. Latehomecomer is a love story for Hmong culture, spirit, and future. It is also a tale of immigrants who long for a home, even if it can't be pointed to on a map.
Tue., March 3, 3 p.m., 2009