Paperback, 203 pages, 6x9, English
by Hmong American Writers' Circle
The Hmong American Writers’ Circle
Shaping the Hmong American literary voice
Hmong history and culture can be found in the form of oral stories, oral poetry, textile art, and music but there is no written account of Hmong life, by a Hmong hand, passed down through the centuries. As an undergraduate, Burlee Vang experienced this void when he received valuable advice from his English professor: “Write about your people. That story has not been told. If you don’t, who will?”
How Do I Begin? is the struggle to preserve on paper the Hmong American experience. In this anthology, readers will find elaborate soul-calling ceremonies, a woman questioning the seeming tyranny of her parents and future in-laws, the temptation of gangs and drugs, and the shame and embarrassment of being different in a culture that obsessively values homogeneity. Some pieces revisit the ghosts of war. Others lament the loss of a country. Many offer glimpses into intergenerational tensions exacerbated by the differences in Hmong and American culture.
How Do I Begin? signifies a turning point for the Hmong community, a group of people who have persevered through war, persecution, and exile. Transcending ethnic and geographic boundaries, it poignantly speaks of survival instead of defeat.
“Seventeen Hmong come-of-age writers meet you head-on with their hearts on fire, their eyes electric, their voices thundering: bullet-riddled histories, miraculous border-breakouts, adopted fractured citizenships, landscapes in spirit flight, language in between languages, and impossible healings of community, and perhaps one of the finest collections of creative writing in decades. A monumental tour de force.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera, Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair, UC Riverside
“The confident clear Americano speech tells frankly of the anxieties and questions around being Hmong, new Americans, and artists, with diverse and ever-shifting resolutions. We are witnessing creation.”