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Bamboo Among The Oaks

Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans

Edited by Mai Neng Moua

Publication Year: 2002

Of an estimated twelve million ethnic Hmong in the world, more than 160,000 live in the United States today, most of them refugees of the Vietnam War and the civil war in Laos. Their numbers make them one of the largest recent immigrant groups in our nation. Today, significant Hmong populations can be found in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, and Colorado, and St. Paul boasts the largest concentration of Hmong residents of any city in the world. In this groundbreaking anthology, first- and second-generation Hmong Americans--the first to write creatively in English--share their perspectives on being Hmong in America. In stories, poetry, essays, and drama, these writers address the common challenges of immigrants adapting to a new homeland: preserving ethnic identity and traditions, assimilating to and battling with the dominant culture, negotiating generational conflicts exacerbated by the clash of cultures, and developing new identities in multiracial America. Many pieces examine Hmong history and culture and the authors' experiences as Americans. Others comment on issues significant to the community: the role of women in a traditionally patriarchal culture, the effects of violence and abuse, the stories of Hmong military action in Laos during the Vietnam War. These writers don't pretend to provide a single story of the Hmong; instead, a multitude of voices emerge, some wrapped up in the past, others looking toward the future, where the notion of "Hmong American" continues to evolve. In her introduction, editor Mai Neng Moua describes her bewilderment when she realized that anthologies of Asian American literature rarely contained even one selection by a Hmong American. In 1994, she launched a Hmong literary journal, Paj Ntaub Voice, and in the first issue asked her readers "Where are the Hmong American voices?" Now this collection--containing selections from the journal as well as new submissions--offers a chorus of voices from a vibrant and creative community of Hmong American writers from across the United States.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-viii

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pp. xi-xii

thank the Minnesota Historical Society Press for giving me this opportunity to edit Bamboo Among the Oaks. I thank the staff (Greg Britton, Ann Regan, and Shannon M. Pennefeather) for working tirelessly with me to make this an incredible anthology. ...

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pp. 3-16

How much Hmong history and culture must I provide before we can have a conversation about Hmong literature? This is a question that I as a Hmong writer often contemplate. Sometimes it feels like an added burden, one not imposed on writers who are white and from the majority culture. ...

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pp. 17-21

It was a hot July fourth at McMurray Park, where thousands of Hmong were showcasing their athletic abilities. I watched from a hill as the traffic of Hmong moved in the valley, which had become an arena for soccer, volleyball, and kato. There was a small breeze blowing, sending smells of hot papaya salad, ...

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Bee Cha

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pp. 22-33

It’s been nearly six years since these unsettling questions forced me to take a sabbatical leave from my family and the Hmong community altogether to explore the issue of what I am in the shadow of who I am. To further search for answers to the question of where the “I” in Hmong is, I deliberately locked myself ...

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True Hang

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pp. 34-42

I was eighteen when I married. We had no place of our own. When I came to live with your father, we lived with your grandmother and grandfather. When your father went away to be a soldier, I went with him to live at the military base for a year and then when I had [your older brother] Bee, I came back ...

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Sharon Her

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pp. 43-46

After years of going places he had to go—school, work, home, repeat—he decided today to break the mold. He wanted to go someplace else. Someplace where there was very little noise coming in from the window and from the other side of the wall. Because he was new to this neighborhood, or because ...

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May Lee

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pp. 47-50

If you’ve ever been a daughter-in-law and heard your in-laws saying, “Mai [that’s their daughter], clean up the house” or “Mai [same daughter], do the dishes,” you know they’re not really talking to Mai. They’re really talking to you. It’s their way of discreetly saying you need to work. ...

Kou Lor

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pp. 51-54

Pacyinz Lyfoung

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pp. 55-56

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Mai Neng Moua

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pp. 57-76

My mother carried with her one duck, one chicken, one hoe, one sickle, one change of clothing each for all four of us, one bag of rice, one ax, one waterproof cloth, two blankets, two pots, four spoons, four bowls, some silver bars, seeds for two vegetables, family pictures, and medicinal seeds for constipation.. ...

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Vayong Moua

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pp. 77-82

Perhaps I will not destroy the Hmong Wall, but I already have plans to climb it and break off a piece to bring back to my parents. I’ll say to them proudly, “This is how much you were feared. A powerful emperor and dynasty created this for you and me. Not for Attila the Hun, Alexander the Great, ...

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Noukou Thao

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pp. 83-87

She did not visit her parents often. They lived in the country, up in Appleton, Wisconsin, and she lived in the city, down in Chicago. After college, she chose to accept a position at an up-and-coming financial corporation in Chicago, as far away from the obligations and demands of home as possible. ...

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Bryan Thao Worra

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pp. 88-103

A small horde of portly blackbirds is huddled on the trash bin behind my home on Edmund Avenue. Their lustrous plumage is as slick as crude oil. They are a brutish pack of mourners in their Sunday best, tittering away freely as they pick about with a ghoulish gourmet’s discretion. ...

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Va-Megn Thoj

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pp. 104-108

The room is crowded with people dancing to blaring music. Tooj and Jennifer, the only two Hmong in the room, both in their mid-twenties, are on opposite sides of the dance floor, slightly swaying and nodding to the music, each with a cup of beer in hand. They scan the crowd. Finally, they see each other ...

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Ka Vang

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pp. 109-137

Mandy stole my boyfriend, Tiny. The RCB, or the Red Cambodian Bloods, called him “Tiny” because he stood at six feet with iron arms. He was big for a Khmer. Everyone respected him because of his size, except me. I didn’t like Tiny because, well, he was tiny, about the length of a fortune cookie and as thick as a Bic pen. ...

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M. S. Vang

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pp. 138-151

Chatter, footsteps, and the sound of doors slamming disturbed the relative quiet, as students of various sizes and colors rushed from another school day. The blue Honda door swung open, and Yer stepped out. She walked to the driver’s side and finger-combed her hair, tucking a stray strand behind her ear. ...

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Mayli Vang

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pp. 152-158

I was only four years old when my father died. We were living in a refugee camp near the border of Thailand and Laos when he decided to go back to Laos along with his stepbrothers. His stepbrothers told him it was the noble thing for a son to do. My mother tells me that he wanted to please his stepbrothers and his mother ...

Soul Choj Vang

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pp. 159-169

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Hawj Xiong

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pp. 170-173

The last time I talked to him, he was so alive and full of energy. He talked so much, asking me questions, one coming after another as if his natural silence and quietness had disappeared. Although he was only fifty years old, he looked like he was seventy. One could easily notice the wrinkles on his face ...

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Kao Xiong with Dia Cha

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pp. 174-179

Long ago, a young Hmong man and woman loved each other very much, though they lived in separate villages. Since they were so devoted to one another, the young man made it his custom to visit his girlfriend almost every day. Yet, though they loved each other truly and with all the passion and high hopes of youth, ...

Pa Xiong

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pp. 180-185

Naly Yang

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pp. 186-188

Peter Yang

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pp. 189-191

Kao Yongvang

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pp. 192-195

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pp. 196-202

Bee Cha attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and earned his master of architecture degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he works for Flad & Associates as an architectural designer. Bee was one of the cofounders of Paj Ntaub Voice. ...


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pp. 203-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780873516556
E-ISBN-10: 0873516559
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873514378
Print-ISBN-10: 0873514378

Page Count: 205
Publication Year: 2002

Edition: 1