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Hmong and American

Negotiating Identity, Community, and Culture

Edited by Vincent K. Her and Mary Louise Buley-Meissner

Publication Year: 2012

Farmers in Laos, U.S. allies during the Vietnam War, refugees in Thailand, citizens of the Western world—the stories of the Hmong who now live in America have been told in detail through books and articles and oral histories over the past several decades. Like any immigrant group, members of the first generation may yearn for the past as they watch their children and grandchildren find their way in the dominant culture of their new home. For Hmong people born and educated in the United States, a definition of self often includes traditional practices and tight-knit family groups but also a distinctly Americanized point of view. How do Hmong Americans negotiate the expectations of these two very different cultures? In an engaging series of essays featuring a range of writing styles, leading scholars, educators, artists, and community activists explore themes of history, culture, gender, class, family, and sexual orientation, weaving their own stories into depictions of a Hmong American community where people continue to develop complex identities that are collectively shared but deeply personal as they help to redefine the multicultural America of today. Contributors: Mary Louise Buley-Meissner, Amy DeBroux, Jeremy Hein, Vincent K. Her, Don Hones, Gary Yia Lee, Song Lee, Pao Lor, Bic Ngo, Keith Quincy, Chan Vang, Hue Vang, Ka Vang, Kou Vang, May Vang, Ma Lee Xiong, Shervun Xiong, Kao Kalia Yang, Kou Yang.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Half Title Page

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Title Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-2

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1. Hmong American Studies: Bringing New Voices into Multicultural Studies

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pp. 3-28

Hmong and American: From Refugees to Citizens offers a much-needed, updated look at Hmong American life through essays that open the door to a new way of understanding who Hmong people are becoming in this country. Groundbreaking in its approach, this book goes beyond previous anthologies on the Hmong American experience by taking a contemporary...

Part I: Identity and History

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2. Searching for Sources of Hmong Identity in Multicultural America

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pp. 31-46

The identity of an ethnic group is relatively stable with deep roots in family, culture, tradition, and history. Extensive research also has shown that politics, race, and intergroup interactions are all important considerations for individual and group identity formation. As Stuart Hall notes: “Cultural identities come from somewhere, have histories. But, like everything which is historical, they undergo constant transformation.” For Hmong...

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3. Homeland Narratives and Hmong Americans in Wisconsin

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pp. 47-58

A casual glance at a Wisconsin map reveals towns named Denmark, Holland, Norway, and Poland. This landscape is a reminder that immigrants in Wisconsin have pondered the meaning of homelands for a long time. From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, European immigrants brought diversity when they came to work in mines, lumber camps, wheat fields, cow barns, and factories. For example, in the 1840s and 1850s, thousands...

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4. From War to Resettlement: How Hmong Have Become Americans

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pp. 59-80

Thirty-two years ago, a Hmong student took my introductory university course in government. When he did poorly on the first exam, he came to me worried. His English was halting, so I asked if he knew another language. “French,” he said. I dropped into French and learned after a few pointed questions that he had a good grasp of the material. My questions...

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5. The Spirit of Enterprise and the Emergence of Hmong and Hmong American Identities: Reflections of a Hmong Anthropologist

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pp. 81-98

Being Hmong is having many identities, starting at birth and continuing throughout life. Sometimes these identities are clear-cut, but often they clash with each other. As we mature, most of us learn, although it is not easy, to navigate through this maze of confusing self-images. We just accept it as part of our life, of belonging to a minority living on the margin, and of having to accommodate the demands of majority groups we live with...

Part II: Family Challenges and Community Transitions

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6. The Good Hmong Girl Eats Raw Laab

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pp. 101-112

In this chapter, I will examine social and cultural implications of “a good Hmong girl” by addressing these questions: What does it mean to be a good Hmong girl or a bad Hmong girl? Who defines the good Hmong girl? Who practices it and enforces the rules? Moreover, what are the rewards and consequences for the Hmong girl and her family if she is not...

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7. “There are no GLBT Hmong people”: Hmong American Young Adults Navigating Culture and Sexuality

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pp. 113-132

My involvement with the Hmong American community began in the late 1990s with an employment position at a Hmong social service agency. In my day-to-day interactions with coworkers and participants in our youth and adult education programs, I learned about the social and cultural contexts of the lives of Hmong Americans. My immersion in the Hmong...

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8. The Challenges and Contributions of Hmong American Elders: A Personal and Professional Perspective

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pp. 133-146

Stereotypes and misunderstandings of elders in the Hmong American community have serious consequences; they can cause damage to elders’ self-worth and diminish the empathetic assistance they need from their families as well as professional caregivers. Common perceptions of them as frail and senile, for example, overlook the reality that elders make important contributions to their families and society. While many communities...

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9. Hmong American Professional Identities: An Overview of Generational Changes since the 1970s

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pp. 147-160

Since the 1980s, researchers have addressed many aspects of the Hmong American experience. These encompass a broad range of topics including history; religion and culture; education and youth; health, spirituality, and medicine; the Hmong diaspora; and Hmong identity. Against this background, I am interested in the emergence of Hmong American...

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10. Forging New Paths, Confronting New Challenges: Hmong Americans in the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 161-174

During the summer of 2010, many Hmong American families celebrated their thirty-fifth year in the United States. From a population of about five hundred at the end of 1975, the Hmong American community has grown to about three hundred thousand persons in 2010, making it the largest Hmong population living outside of Asia. Today, Hmong Americans are...

Part III: Cultural Integration through Education and the Arts

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11. Pieces of the Puzzle: A Hmong American Teacher’s Multifaceted Identity

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pp. 177-190

I sat in my graduate educational statistics course anxiously awaiting the results of the latest quiz. I had looked forward to taking a course related to mathematics. When I scanned my answer sheet for errors, my eyes fixed upon a response marked as incorrect. I wanted to ask for clarification, but because I did not want to prolong the gathering any further for my classmates...

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12. Transforming the World and Oneself: The Arts and Hmong American Identity

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pp. 191-208

When one thinks of centers of culture and the arts, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, may not come immediately to mind. True, Oshkosh has gained fame as host to a large gathering of aviation enthusiasts each July, and it’s a great place to spear a sturgeon in February. Yet, the casual visitor to the city might be forgiven for finding the cultural landscape as flat as the surrounding terrain. However, despite the cold of an April evening, things begin...

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13. Making the Invisible Visible: Confronting the Complexities of Identity, Family, and Culture through Art

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pp. 209-224

We are surrounded by art in all the things we see, touch, hear, feel, and experience. The book you are holding in your hands was created and designed by artists. Artists also selected the colors, created the patterns, chose the fabric, and designed the style of clothing you are wearing. Art enriches our lives and adds texture to everything we come in contact with...

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14. To See a Bigger World: The Home and Heart of a Hmong American Writer

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pp. 225-232

The chapter is an exploration of a Hmong American writer’s journey into being. It is a lyric reflection of why and where a memoirist documents the internal and external landscape of belonging to a people, a place, and a dream. It is an intimate window into the heart and the mind of a young writer and an emergent teacher. This is an exploration of the intersections...

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15 Stitching the Fabric of Hmong Lives: The Value of Studying Paj Ntaub and Story Cloth in Multicultural Education

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pp. 233-260

The artistry of Hmong women across generations is evident in two major chapters of cultural creativity inseparable from Hmong history and heritage: first, traditional sewing in Laos to reinforce the identity and values of family and clan; and second, story cloth production in refugee camps to bring Hmong lives to the attention of the outside world. Many studies...


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pp. 261-266


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pp. 267-278

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780873518550
E-ISBN-10: 0873518551
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873518482
Print-ISBN-10: 0873518489

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 5 b&w illustrations, notes, index, bibliography, 1 table
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hmong Americans -- Ethnic identity.
  • Hmong Americans -- Social conditions.
  • Hmong Americans -- Social life and customs.
  • Community life -- United States.
  • United States -- Ethnic relations.
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