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The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  2,686 ratings  ·  462 reviews
In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, The Latehomecomer is Ka ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Coffee House Press (first published January 1st 2008)
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Rock
I've been flagellating trying to write a review of this story, I think because I want so badly to relate it to the multitude of political cultural historical events that it skirts, always affected by them but rarely addressing them. That is a credit to Ms. Yang, who establishes herself here as a powerfully lyrical writer, with both feet firm in what I (as an ignoramus) imagine to be the Hmong oral tradition. Though these pages together are a memoir, the Latehomecomer is not Ms. Yang but rather h ...more
Amy
This book hit home for me, literally. Yang and her family move to Minnesota and settle into a housing project very near where I lived when I was in elementary school. Due to the high Hmong population in St. Paul, I went to school with a handful of Hmong kids and reading this memoir makes me realize that although I was in classes with these kids, even had desks adjacent to some of them, I definitely did not appreciate who they were and what some of them were going through at the time. I have no d ...more
Diane S.
When the United States withdrew from Vietnam, they left the Hmong people in dire straits. One third of them were killed during the war, one third were the victims of genocide by the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao soldiers. Those that were alive fled to the jungles and tried to hide and eke out a sort of life.

This is the story of Kao and her family, written and narrated by her and the characterization are very vivid and poignant. She herself, was born in Thailand, in a refugee camp, after h
...more
Claudia
Feb 13, 2009 Claudia rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!
Recommended to Claudia by: Kao Kalia Yang
Kao Kalia Yang's written words read just like her spoken words sound - eloquent, sparse, and powerful in their own quiet, poetic way. Kalia's book is the first novel published by a Hmong American woman, and as a creative non-fiction memoir of her family's migration from the hills of Laos to refugee camps in Thailand to the cities of Minnesota, it makes a beautiful addition to the long history of Hmong storytelling as well as a promising start to what is likely to be an incredible career for Kali ...more
Rachel
I really enjoyed this book. Growing up around several Hmong people, I was shocked that I did not know the Hmong story. I read this book and it whetted my appetite to learn more about the Hmong people. Next, I read "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down." This book explains the Hmong plight very well, and helped me understand The Late Homecomer more. My favorite part in this book was when the family came to the United States and she writes how they took a bath with a strange smelling soap and ...more
Lauree
It is good to know about the struggles of the Hmong people. The author is about four years younger than me, so all of her family's efforts to survive have taken place while I was living a parallel comfortable life. It is healthy to make this comparison and see that they have the same needs and desires and capabilities as my family. They just haven't been as fortunate. This book is beautifully written. What talent!
Sean
To describe this book in a word...interesting. Very interesting.

As much as I like to think otherwise, there's a whole lot of stuff in the world that I just don't know enough about. Some of this stuff is pretty damn important, stuff that for whatever reason isn't taught in classrooms or reported in big flashy headlines on the news (exclusively reserved nowadays for mischievous celebrities and and all manner of dire political circumstances). Before reading this I didn't know much about the Hmong
...more
Mark

As part of an immigration project I'm working on, I recently spent a lot of time interviewing members of the Hmong community in Minneapolis-St. Paul. For those who don't know, the Hmong are an ancient Chinese tribe that centuries ago moved mostly to Laos, where they fought for the Americans during the Vietnam War.

This of course put them in great jeopardy after the war ended, and thousands of Hmong fled to refugee camps in Thailand and then to the U.S., where the largest single concentration now
...more
Catherine
This is a beautiful memoir, deftly written, and the arc of three generations of women's lives gives a wonderful resiliency to the text. There are repeated images - walking; typing; struggling to speak - but within the disparate worlds of Laos, Thailand, and the United States each theme takes on a different resonance. The author's focus on words - spoken, then written, and the relationship between the two in more than one language - is haunting, and I got chills when she wrote an essay in high sc ...more
Kay
Mar 15, 2012 Kay rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kay by: Kristen
My introduction to Hmong people was when I first visited my daughter's family who had just moved to Wisconsin. There was a large, happy group of Asian people at the park. She told me they were Hmong. "What is Hmong?" I asked. She said they were from Viet Nam. She was sort of right. They did live in Viet Nam, but really they are a race, a culture, a community without a country. My daughter has since made many friends with Hmong, one of whom recommended she read this book. She did and recommended ...more
Jane
Minnesota author, Kao Kalia Yang, wrotes a beautiful, deeply moving memoir of her family's journey from Laos to America. She captures the essence of their struggles leaving Laos, in the refugee camp (where she is born) and assimilating to an American-Hmong lifestyle. She laces their story with the thread of the elders unending hope that their offspring would have better opportunities making their sacrifices worthwhile. There are many inspirational and tear jerking passages that touched me deeply ...more
Literary Mama
From "Now Reading" by Literary Mama staff:

Social Media Editor Caryn Mohr recommends a poignant, engaging memoir: "I just read The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang, the story of her family's escape from war-ravaged Laos to refugee camps in Thailand and ultimately the U.S. Through her own lyrical voice and the voices of her relatives, Yang vividly portrays the lives and struggles of people powerfully affected by, and too often absent from, the texts of history. The book is in
...more
Zoe C
The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang is about a Hmong families journey from Laos to Saint Paul, Minnesota. It starts out in Laos told as Kalia's parents would of viewed it. Then the go to a refugee camp in Thailand where the girl telling the story is born and what it is like there. Then she tells about the journey from Thailand to the USA. For the rest of the book Kalia tells about her and her family's life in Minnesota and how it goes.

I really liked the book The Latehomecomer. It is a memoir. A
...more
Shomeret
The only book I'd read about the Hmong previously was The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Culturesby Anne Fadiman. I felt that Fadiman was portraying the Hmong as a mysterious puzzle to be solved. This is the first book I have read from a Hmong perspective It humanizes the Hmong and gives them more of a context. I place the Hmong in the context of other independent spirited mountain peoples with distinctive cultures such as the ...more
Terry
This memoir of a young woman's experiences in Thailand after her family's escape from war-torn Laos and their subsequent immigration to America is very touching. Kao Kalia Yang has an amazing memory and deftly writes about her family's experiences on 2 continents. The struggles of her family are difficult but the family members are able to remain full of hope. One comes away from this book with a deep admiration for the Hmong people who made it to this country. They were willing to give up every ...more
Linda
I had the privilege of receiving an early reviewer audio of this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The story is written and read by Kao Kalia Yang. I was so pleased to be chosen to review this book as I was a teacher in Monterey during the early eighties and had the amazing and humbling experience of working with children newly off the boat from Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia as they were brought through the Travis intake center to Monterey during the aftermath of Viet Nam War. As the chil ...more
Jonathan
One of the comments noted that the title of the book The Latehomecomer was in reference to Ms. Yang's grandmother and certainly that was true, but I wonder if Ms. Yang also meant it in reference to the Hmong people as a whole?

I'm not lifting America upon a pedestal, I know the evils that reside in its past and its peoples, but it is a land of opportunity, truly, and freedom breathes deeper here than in most places of the world. Perhaps, perhaps, this land will become (if not already) the home f
...more
Jenny
My mom gave me this book after meeting Kao Kalia Yang at an in-person event. I had heard of the Hmong people but knew nothing of their story. I found the account of the author's family's struggle during the Vietnam War to be so sad and heart-wrenching... no one should have to endure the fear and danger that they lived through. There is a quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness." In this book, I traveled with Yang's family to Laos, th ...more
Aaron
This was a great, great book about what happened to the Hmong after the Vietnam War. Very lyrically written, and heartbreaking in the raw emotion it conveys. Tells the true story of her family who had to hide for four years in the jungles of Laos while being hunted by Vietnamese soldiers. After one too many close calls with death, the dad decides to swim across the 1/2 mile wide Mekong River while towing his daughter, wife, and mom even though he didn't know how to swim, just so they can reach t ...more
Rach
Halfway through this book I decided that it should be required reading for any non-Hmong person who lives in the Twin Cities/western Wisconsin or in California's central valley--any place where the large numbers of Hmong families have resettled. I later found out it is required reading this year for the incoming class at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. I learned a lot about the incredible struggles faced by the Hmong during and after the Secret War in Laos. The writer's voice is clear a ...more
Barbarac
I'm glad I created an "Asia" folder in GR...otherwise, what would I file this book under now that I know about the Hmong people?
Very interesting book, I had never heard of Hmong, and I had never heard of their role in the Vietnam war. Yet another very mishandled situation by a Western country.
The Hmong were strong enough to hold on to their culture and family and survive, when other cultures and ethnic groups wouldn't have survived the situation.

This book discusses the Hmong's history of survi
...more
Laura C.
This book, Kao Kalia Yang’s telling of her own families story form the jungles of Cambodia to her success as an author, reminds me of how lucky I really am to have been born in the United State. It is also a cautionary tale of the human cost of America’s foreign policy. The Hmong were our allies in the Viet Nam War, but many were abandoned when the US pulled out of Southeast Asia. They were hunted by the Khmer régime and nearly exterminated. In 1979, while I greeted the guests at my wedding rece ...more
Shana
Kao Kalia Yang tells her family's story from the jungles of Laos to the projects of St. Paul and beyond with grace, humor, compassion and wonder. She retells her grandmother's stories with a respect that leads one to truly appreciate the ease of our lives.

Yang struggled as a child with English, school, and double expectations. She has overcome obstacles most of us couldn't and has become a gifted storyteller, just like her grandmother.

As I drive around St. Paul after finishing the book, I find m
...more
Pam Gardow
Touching, memorable, inspiring memoir of a Hmong family's harrowing flight from war-torn Laos, across the treacherous Mekong River to Thailand, and ultimate arrival in Minnesota. Yang makes us part of her family and culture as she navigates difficulties in school and her parents work double jobs in hopes of achieving the American Dream.
Amelia Jansky
I really enjoyed reading this memoir, a powerful story of the struggle the Hmong have gone through but few know of. I live very close to the area where Yang's family is relocated to upon arriving in the United States (St. Paul, MN.), yet I have very little knowledge of this part of the population's history. It was an eye-opening read to say the least and I would recommend it to anyone, even if you are not usually interested in historical pieces or the Hmong culture.
Kellymark44
I loved this book. Her description of her relationship with her grandmother was like she was describing my own grandmother. This was a well written book and quite a story about refugees in our own community.
Mmars
Excellent book. Kao Kalia's memoir should find itself being used in cultural studies classes for years to come. She writes so clearly and intimately about her family's experience. Her experiences in America keep popping into my head as I experience my own daily life, so unlike hers. An excellent companion to "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down." There is a dearth of literature and memoirs written by the Hmong about the Hmong experience in America. Making this a truly important book. Thankf ...more
Amanda Clayton
I had to read this book for a grad class. I really enjoyed it as I didn't know a lot about Hmong history.
Hannah
Wow. The Latehomecomer was an absolutely stunning book. Each sentence flowed and painted images in my mind, sometimes the image was so strong I could feel the emotions of each character. Yang's writing has baffled me. I had never encountered a book with such vehemently structured sentences. I would just like to say "Well Done"
I can relate to this book due to the fact I came from an asian country as an immigrant as well, with my family, for a better life. And here I am, 13 years later and I am br
...more
Don
I found this book, a family memoir of Hmong refugees as a result of the Vietnam War, enlightening and provocative. First, I had never heard of the Hmong connection with the Vietnam war, their assistance to US troops in Laos, and following US withdrawal, their persecution and attempted genocide. This book follows the story of the author's family as they escape from Laos into Thailand, where they stay at a refugee camp for several years before eventually moving to the US. The author is actually bo ...more
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“Love is the reason why my mother and father stick together in a hard life when they might each have an easier one apart; love is the reason why you choose a life with someone, and you don't turn back although your heart cries sometimes and your children see you cry and you wish out loud that things were easier. Love is getting up each day and fighting the same fight only to sleep that night in the same bed beside the same person because long ago, when you were younger and you did not see so clearly, you had chosen them.” 13 likes
“I learned that what made our parents sad was not so much the hardness of the life they had to lead in America, or the hardness of the lives they had led to get to America, but the hardness of OUR lives in America. It was always about the children.” 3 likes
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