The Bride Price
A Hmong Wedding Story
Author Mai Neng Moua
Minnesota Historical Society Press (March 1, 2017)
A principled decision brings unexpected consequences for a Hmong American woman struggling to reconcile the two cultures—and to be a good daughter while breaking the rules.
When Mai Neng Moua decides to get married, her mother, a widow, wants the groom to follow Hmong custom and pay a bride price, which both honors the work the bride’s family has done in raising a daughter and offers a promise of love and security from the groom’s family. Mai Neng, who knows the pain this tradition has caused, says no. Her husband-to-be supports her choice.
What happens next is devastating, and it raises questions about the very meaning of being Hmong in America. The couple refuses to participate in the tshoob, the traditional Hmong marriage ceremony; many members of their families, on both sides, stay away from their church wedding. Months later, the families carry out the tshoob without the wedding couple. But even after the bride price has been paid, Mai Neng finds herself outside of Hmong culture and at odds with her mother, not realizing the full meaning of the customs she has rejected. As she navigates the Hmong world of animism, Christianity, and traditional gender roles, she begins to learn what she has not been taught. Through a trip to Thailand, through hard work in the garden, through the birth of another generation, one strong woman seeks reconciliation with another.
Mai Neng Moua is a writer, the founder of the Hmong literary arts journal Paj Ntaub Voice, and the editor of the groundbreaking anthology Bamboo Among the Oaks.
Reviews and news
“With subtlety, sensitivity, and nuance, Moua explores the world of Hmong Americans and reveals the fraught terrain of cultural differences that they must navigate. She shows how first- and second-generation Hmong, shaped by war and refugee experiences, confront difficult questions of identity and negotiation. Moua proves an apt and insightful guide to a community dealing with age-old American issues in a new and original fashion.”
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer
“Moua has penned a heartfelt memoir to bridge many divides. The Bride Price is an eye-opening story about love at the crossroads of cultures, obligations, and dislocation—a touching work driven by pain, beauty, and sensibilities. A rare view into Hmong culture and struggles, an important narrative.”
Andrew X. Pham, author of Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
“The Bride Price is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down for Hmong marriages, a compelling story of what happens when American values clash with ancient and patriarchal Hmong traditions. Authentic, honest, and beautifully written, this complicated love story between a mother and daughter—and between a woman and her culture—deserves to be told.”
Ka Vang, author of Shoua and the Northern Lights Dragon
“What is a marriage? A family? A culture? As a Hmong American, Mai Neng Moua discovers that these questions are far more complicated, deeper and encompassing than she or the reader supposes. The Bride Price is an absorbing and moving tale of the love between a woman and a man, a daughter and her mother, a writer and her community. Moua has written a new American classic, which will stand beside works by Maxine Hong Kingston, Kao Kalia Yang, Edwidge Danticat and Reyna Grande and be read for years to come.”
David Mura, author of Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei
“Moua explores the fusion—and sometimes collision—of cultural and family dynamics. As in a good novel, the characters shine through her narrative. Her mother, Niam—smart, opinionated, hard-working, demanding, and the epitome of tough love—is simply unforgettable.”
Jim Heynen, author of The Boys’ House: New and Selected Stories
“A tradition is a living work of art. A great tradition should pass the test of time, being scrutinized, analyzed, modernized. In her groundbreaking and fearless memoir, The Bride Price, Mai Neng Moua shows us the meaning and practice of the Hmong tradition of paying the bride price, in the past, the present, and as it might be in the future.”
Soul Vang, author of To Live Here
“The Bride Price is both a literary achievement and a cry for change in the Hmong community. Bold, witty, and unapologetic, Mai Neng Moua deconstructs and challenges patriarchal traditions and cultural expectations in an attempt to redefine herself as a Hmong daughter, wife, and mother.”
Burlee Vang, founder of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle
“Eloquently, with succinct personal experience and insights, Moua has left no stone unturned in considering the philosophical and ideological controversy over traditional Hmong wedding practices. With sensitivity and nuance, she explores the issues and their roots, contemplates the purpose of a Hmong 'bride price,' and illuminates the murky, painful conflict she experienced as she and her mother wrestled over the practice. Mai Neng’s daring voice offers the reader a unique and thoroughly Hmong perspective on Hmong culture and wedding practice. Fascinating, insightful, and good reading!"
Pos L. Moua, author of Where the Torches Are Burning
- This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
- 240 pages
- 6x9 inches
- ISBN: 9781681340364