The Wide World of Belonging
by Kao Kalia Yang

I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in December of 1980. I was the runt of the babies born that year in that hungry place, in that uncertain time. Few thought I would survive.

The Hmong, my people, had just escaped from the genocide of the aftermath of America’s secret war in Laos. The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States had commissioned thirty-two thousand Hmong men and boys to fight and die on America’s behalf. Most of the soldiers were killed during the war. Many more civilians were slaughtered after the Americans left. I was born to a people who had fled from death and despair in the hopes of a chance at life.

I was born on four hundred borrowed acres, funded by the United Nations, surrounded by Thai men with guns, in a place where Hmong people got food three days a week and little girls like me often disappeared in the dark of night.

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