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Latehomecomer, The by Kao Kalia Yang
by: Kao Kalia Yang
Coffee House Press 2008, Paperback
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2015 Issue: 22(3) page(s): 17
This book is not a cookbook; and it has no recipes. Considered a Hmong family memoir, it begins at they leave the war-torn jungles of Laos, and discusses their many years in refuge camps in Thailand where they lived for seven years. It follows them going to and in the United States, spending a few in California. The author's family goes to St. Paul, Minnesota. It details their experiences, discusses this Chinese population living not in China, but elsewhere, their cultural heritage, Hmong family dreams, their cultural thoughts, wisdom, and their cultural traditions.
The memoir is centered on the grandmother and one granddaughter, but does discuss the many other children, too, detailing this extended family. One son goes to California as does the grandmother and his family. The granddaughter and another son are main characters, their granddaughter is the book's author.
She was born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp and comes with another son, one of many, to Minnesota. Grandma visits every summer to spend time with them, and they are principal characters in this book. This particular multi-generational Hmong family live together here and in other places before coming to America. They share their traditional beliefs and behaviors and they adopt and adapt to newer ones in the United States. Included are their many food beliefs and customs. The volume ends when the grandmother dies and the family is together in the funeral home having made a large amount of food to consume together there for several days. That is part of their means of honoring her death, sharing this food when hundreds come to pay their respects.
The author who did receive some aid from the Jerome Foundation Coffee House Press and from other groups to write and release a film documents experiences of Hmong refugees, and this book. One can learn about it by going to www.kaokaliavang.com