New Essay: THE WIDE WORLD OF BELONGING

The Wide World of Belonging
by Kao Kalia Yang

I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in December of 1980. I was the runt of the babies born that year in that hungry place, in that uncertain time. Few thought I would survive.

The Hmong, my people, had just escaped from the genocide of the aftermath of America’s secret war in Laos. The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States had commissioned thirty-two thousand Hmong men and boys to fight and die on America’s behalf. Most of the soldiers were killed during the war. Many more civilians were slaughtered after the Americans left. I was born to a people who had fled from death and despair in the hopes of a chance at life.

I was born on four hundred borrowed acres, funded by the United Nations, surrounded by Thai men with guns, in a place where Hmong people got food three days a week and little girls like me often disappeared in the dark of night.

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Bee Yang

Hmong song poetry | kwv txhiaj hmoob

Thaum Hluas Txog Hnub Laus: When the Days of Youth are Gone (Bee Yang, 2014)

This is an album of Hmong song poetry, kwv txhiaj hmoob, composed and sung by Bee Yang, Kao Kalia Yang’s father. The album notes and English translation of one of the songs are by Kao Kalia Yang.

Kwv txhiaj is, in the words of Ralph Ellison on the American Blues, “an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-cosmic lyricism. As a form, the blues [and kwv txhiaj] is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.”

NOTE:  The duration of the songs do not reflect the actual song length.  Please consider ordering the CD for the full songs.  Thank you.

*This CD is available for purchase for $15.  Click below to order:

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