Bamboo Among The Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans
Of an estimated twelve million ethnic Hmong in the world, more than 160,000 live in the United States today, most of them refugees of the Vietnam War and the civil war in Laos. Their numbers make them one of the largest recent immigrant groups in our nation. Today, significant Hmong populations can be found in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, and Colorado, and St. Paul boasts the largest concentration of Hmong residents of any city in the world.
In this groundbreaking anthology, first- and second-generation Hmong Americans--the first to write creatively in English--share their perspectives on being Hmong in America. In stories, poetry, essays, and drama, these writers address the common challenges of immigrants adapting to a new homeland: preserving ethnic identity and traditions, assimilating to and battling with the dominant culture, negotiating generational conflicts exacerbated by the clash of cultures, and developing new identities in multiracial America. Many pieces examine Hmong history and culture and the authors' experiences as Americans. Others comment on issues significant to the community: the role of women in a traditionally patriarchal culture, the effects of violence and abuse, the stories of Hmong military action in Laos during the Vietnam War. These writers don't pretend to provide a single story of the Hmong; instead, a multitude of voices emerge, some wrapped up in the past, others looking toward the future, where the notion of "Hmong American" continues to evolve.
In her introduction, editor Mai Neng Moua describes her bewilderment when she realized that anthologies of Asian American literature rarely contained even one selection by a Hmong American. In 1994, she launched a Hmong literary journal, Paj Ntaub Voice, and in the first issue asked her readers "Where are the Hmong American voices?" Now this collection--containing selections from the journal as well as new submissions--offers a chorus of voices from a vibrant and creative community of Hmong American writers from across the United States.
MAI NENG MOUA came to the United States as a refugee from Laos with her family in 1981. A graduate of St. Olaf College, she is the public policy coordinator for the Institute for New Americans and cofounder and editor of Paj Ntaub Voice, the premier Hmong literary journal. Her work has appeared in Gypsy Cab, INK, Journal of the Asian American Renaissance, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Women's Press, We are the Freedom People: Sharing Our Stories, and Creating a Vibrant America.
Praise for Bamboo Among the Oaks:
"This is a landmark book. The voices of these young Hmong writers are vivid, sharp, funny, bitter, heterogeneous, and long awaited. I turned each page with excitement." -- Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
"This unique collection of poetry and prose invites us to share Hmong life in America--the sadness for what has been lost in the old culture, the struggle with what must be learned in the new culture, and the intense conflict between the two. These literary pieces are poignant and stirring, and the reader feels their beauty." -- Lillian Faderman, author of I Begin My Life All Over: The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience
"Bamboo Among the Oaks is a groundbreaking anthology. An important collection not just for those interested in ethnic or Asian American studies, but for anyone who wants to know how the new immigrant Americans are transforming not only themselves and their culture but America itself." -- David Mura, author of The Colors of Desire: Poems and Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei