When Relatives Die They Become Ancestors: NEW essay by Kao Kalia

When Relatives Die They Become Ancestors

One of my aunties is dying in a hospital bed in the medical metropolis of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The hospital is only two hours from the Twin Cities, where she lives, but it is likely that she will never come home again, certainly not as she left it, sick and scared.

It is hard on the family. We love her dearly.

For much of my life, I’ve known her as my uncle’s third wife. She was a quiet woman with a ready smile and, according to my uncle, a steadfast heart. She’s the mother of my cousins, a good one, if their gentle care, endless tears, and their regrets are any indication. Her sickness — cancer that began in her gall bladder and was not diagnosed until it had metastasized into her liver — turned her soft skin into a dull shade of turmeric, and caused itching all over her body. This is our family’s second deadly encounter with cancer; my oldest auntie died from it four years ago.

Read more here.


Image by Emily Moy / Flickr


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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:


Bee Yang: Hmong Song Poetry



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