Dust of Life: A True Ban Vinai Love Story

Paperback, 158 pages, 4.2x6.7, English
by Gary Yia Lee
ISBN: 0-9723624-0-1
It was 1977 and Ban Vinai had just been set up as a refugee camp for thousands of Hmong who fled the new communist regime in Laos to the safety of Thailand, Mua, a young, Hmong man, had just recently completed his university studies and was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was aked by Pafua, a refugee girl in Ban Vinai, to help sponsor her and her family for settlement in the United States. Although he hardly knew her, he travelled to Thailand to see what he could do. It was agreed that if they got on well, he would marry her and apply for her and her family to come and live with him in America. In the meantime, he went to work on a Thai government project with Hmong opium growers in Chiangmai where he met a young, Thai woman named Phorn. She was the opposite to the Hmong girl in many ways and he became inadvertently involved with her. After a few months of visits and courtship, he asked Pafua for marriage. To his dismay, her mother refused him her hand. Hurt and disappointed, he turned to Phorn but would soon learn that she was very different from what he understood her to be. Shattered by these events, he returned to the US where he continued to work for Hmong refugees. It was not until many years later when Mua went to Australia, where Pafua and her mother had gone to live, that he discovered the awful truth about her refusal to marry him - a discovery that would profoundly affect him for the rest of his life. This novel is both a mystery and a love story. It is about the Hmong as much as the Thai people and their cultures. The author, who is an anthropologist, has woven many facts into the book that will help the reader appreciate different facets of life among the poor in Thailand, the recent history of the Hmong refugees from Laos, their difficult life in the refugee camp of Ban Vinai and their rich traditions.