The Song Poet will become the first Hmong story to be adapted into an opera. How exciting!
The Minnesota Opera on Monday announced the commissioning of a new work based on the award-winning memoir “The Song Poet” by St. Paul writer Kao Kalia Yang. It tells the story of her family and in particular, her song poet father Bee Yang, as war forces them from Laos into a Thai refugee camp and ultimately on to St Paul.
Yang said it’s the first time a Hmong story will be presented as an opera.
Read more here.
Come experience The Song Poet Live at the Minnesota Ordway Center on September 22nd, 2019 at 6:00 PM. Tickets are available: https://ordway.org/event/song-poet-live/
Come work on the form of the memoir with Kao Kalia Yang, August 21st-22nd, at the North Beach Writers’ Retreat. Space is limited. Learn more here: https://northbeachwritersretreat.com/
My daughter stood by herself in the playground. Her short brown hair was in a small, messy ponytail. Her pink dress, full of flowers in bloom, floated about her as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She wrung her hands. She bit her lips. She climbed up the side to the top of the yellow slide. She climbed down again. A little boy ran passed her and she moved so he would have more room for his run. She turned toward the swings and looked at the little girls in their brightly colored hijabs, lifting each other on the swing, laughing and falling, pulling each other down and then up again. There was a little Hmong girl with long black hair crying at the edge of the playground. A teacher stood close by, saying words I couldn’t make out. My daughter stood by herself, unaware that I was looking.
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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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One day my brother said his face felt heavy. His left eye started to water. He wiped away the liquid. He massaged his face. He went fishing with our cousins.
When he got home, it was late. The sky was dark. The house was dark. He was quiet coming into the house. He didn’t turn on lights until he got to the bathroom.
In the light of the bathroom, he could see that one side of his face looked strange. It appeared to be drooping. He tried to push it up: his eye lids, his cheek, his mouth, but to no avail. Nothing was working on the left side of his face.
Instead of waking up our parents or making a scene, he used his hand to help his mouth open, and he brushed his teeth and washed his face, and he went to bed.
Continue reading here.
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