Somewhere in the Unknown World
From “an exceptional storyteller,” Somewhere in the Unknown World is a collection of powerful stories of refugees who have found new lives in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, told by the award-winning author of The Latehomecomer and The Song Poet.
All over this country, there are refugees. But beyond the headlines, few know who they are, how they live, or what they have lost. Although Minnesota is not known for its diversity, the state has welcomed more refugees per capita than any other, from Syria to Bosnia, Thailand to Liberia. Now, with nativism on the rise, Kao Kalia Yang—herself a Hmong refugee—has gathered stories of the stateless who today call the Twin Cities home.
Here are people who found the strength and courage to rebuild after leaving all they hold dear. Awo and her mother, who escaped from Somalia, reunite with her father on the phone every Saturday, across the span of continents and decades. Tommy, born in Minneapolis to refugees from Cambodia, cannot escape the war that his parents carry inside. As Afghani flees the reach of the Taliban, he seeks at every stop what he calls a certificate of his humanity. Mr. Truong brings pho from Vietnam to Frogtown in St. Paul, reviving a crumbling block as well as his own family.
In Yang’s exquisite, necessary telling, these fourteen stories for refugee journeys restore history and humanity to America’s strangers and redeem its long tradition of welcome.
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year
What Gods is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Women of Color: New Book by Kao Kalia Yang and Shannon Gibney.
What God Is Honored Here? is the first book of its kind—and urgently necessary. This is a literary collection of voices of Indigenous women and women of color who have undergone miscarriage and infant loss, experiences that disproportionately affect women who have often been cast toward the margins in the United States of America.
From the story of dashed cultural expectations in an interracial marriage to poems that speak of loss across generations, from harrowing accounts of misdiagnoses, ectopic pregnancies, and late-term stillbirths to the poignant chronicles of miscarriages and mysterious infant deaths, What God Is Honored Here? brings women together to speak to one another about the traumas and tragedies of womanhood. In its heartbreaking beauty, this book offers an integral perspective on how culture and religion, spirit and body, unite in the reproductive lives of women of color and Indigenous women as they bear witness to loss, search for what is not there, and claim for themselves and others their fundamental humanity. Powerfully and with brutal honesty, they write about what it means to reclaim life in the face of death.
Editors Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang acknowledge “who we had been could not have prepared us for who we would become in the wake of these words,” yet the writings collected here offer insight, comfort, and, finally, hope for all those who, like the women gathered here, have found grief a lonely place.
The Song Poet
In the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of his people, their history and tragedies, joys and losses; extemporizing or drawing on folk tales, he keeps the past alive, invokes the spirits and the homeland, and records courtships, births, weddings, and wishes.
Following her award-winning book The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang now retells the life of her father Bee Yang, the song poet, a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by American’s Secret War. Bee lost his father as a young boy and keenly felt his orphanhood. He would wander from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other, whispering the words to himself at night until, one day, a song was born. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. But the songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a Minneapolis housing project and on the factory floor until, with the death of Bee’s mother, the songs leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has polished a life of poverty for his children, burnished their grim reality so that they might shine.
Written with the exquisite beauty for which Kao Kalia Yang is renowned, The Song Poet is a love story — of a daughter for her father, a father for his children, a people for their land, their traditions, and all that they have lost.
The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press, 2008)
ONE HMONG FAMILY’S HARROWING ESCAPE FROM WAR IN LAOS TO THE UNCERTAINTY OF A NEW HOME AS REFUGEES IN MINNESOTA.
Yang’s award-winning memoir of her family’s harrowing escape from war in Laos is a love letter to her grandmother, a troubling portrait of the consequences of us intervention in Southeast Asia, and a glimpse into the little-seen exodus of the Hmong people, first to refugee camps in Thailand and then, for many, to new homes in Minnesota.
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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: