In The Latehomecomer, by Kao Kalia Yang shares her story and the story of her family’s search for a home and identity. Her family’s story voices the story of the Hmong people and their plight. From every stage of their journey, from the mountainous jungles of Southeast Asia to the freezing winter of Minnesota, Yang and the Hmong were compelled to redefine their identity, willingly or unwillingly. While growing up, Yang’s parents would often ask her, “’What are you?’ and the right answer was always, ‘I am Hmong.’” (Yang, 1) For “Hmong” to be the right answer, then what does it mean to be “Hmong”? From the personal story shared by Yang, and the universal story of the Hmong people, the Hmong identity cannot be contained in one jungle, camp, language, or narrative. The Hmong identity is in continuous metamorphosis that only be told by the Hmong.
The Hmong were originally from China, and later migrated down to the jungles of Southeast Asia. They have dwelled in the mountainous jungles of Laos and Vietnam ever since. They are people without a country or any written history. Due to their lack of a written language and country, the Hmong have been either forgotten in the history books, or been told by others. With this reality, the Hmong have been voiceless to tell their own story.
During the Vietnam War, the Hmong people fought alongside the United States.
When the US decided to withdraw its forces from the war, the Hmong were left to fend for themselves. For helping the US, the Hmong would once again be on the run to avoid persecution and death from Pathet Lao and the North Vietnamese soldiers. Yang’s family and thousands of other Hmong fled to the jungles and sought refuge elsewhere.
In their desperate search...
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...whole lives through.” (Yang, 263) Throughout this story, her grandmother was the bond that held the whole family together through all the ordeals. She was the source of pride of being a Hmong, and the courage to find her voice.
For a very long time the Hmong people have been searching for a place to call home. Their journey has forced them to face many sorrowful circumstances, and forced them to change in many ways. Over the course of their plight, Hmong have taken many identities. They have been refugees, immigrants, survivors, patriots, and Americans. Even after finding a home in the US, the Hmong identity cannot be determined. The Hmong identity cannot be contained in the jungles of southeast Asia, Thai refugee camps, languages, or a memoir. The Hmong identity is in continuous metamorphosis, and the only people who can voice about their identity are the Hmong.
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