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Staring Down the Tiger

Staring Down the Tiger

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Stories of Hmong American Women

Author Pa Der Vang

Minnesota Historical Society Press (March 1, 2020)

Captivating stories of the courage, resilience, and everyday brilliance of Hmong American women.


Tsov tom, or tigerbite—an insult in Hmong culture—means you were stupid enough to approach a tiger and get bitten. In this remarkable new book, Hmong American women reclaim that phrase, showing in prose and poetry that they are strong enough and brave enough to stare down the tiger. Contributors celebrate the power of bonds between daughter and mother, sister and sister, and grandmother and granddaughter. Only after climbing a mountain in Nepal can Kia M. Lor finally understand her mother’s life. Pa Xiong provides a recipe for squirrel stew, remembering in telling detail the gender roles that mark each step—and how her mother broke those rules. Kao Kalia Yang sketches the extraordinary everyday achievements of a Hmong leader, her older sister, Dawb. Contributors to this volume bring life and character to the challenges of maintaining identity, navigating changes in gender roles, transitioning to American culture, and breaking through cultural barriers. These pieces were brought together through the work of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together, an organization founded in St. Paul to be a catalyst for lasting cultural, institutional, and social change to improve the lives of Hmong women.

Contributors: MayKao Y. Hang, Npaus Baim Her, Gaosong V. Heu, Linda Vang Kim, Dee Kong, BoNhia Lee, Duabhav BJ Lee, Tou SaiKo Lee, Kia M. Lor, Kia Moua, Mai Neng Moua, Mainhia Moua, Douachee Vang, Gao Vang, Maly Vang, Talee Vang, MaiThao Xiong, Pa Xiong, Renee Ya, Boonmee Yang, Kao Kalia Yang, Lyncy Yang, Nou Yang, Song Yang

Also of interest: Bamboo Among The Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans

Author information

Pa Der Vang, an associate professor of social work at St. Catherine University, researches Hmong Americans and the effects of acculturation. She is on the board of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together.

Reviews and news


Pioneer Press

Advance Praise:

Staring Down the Tiger is fresh, bold, honest, and always engaging. A must-read for anyone interested in contemporary gender issues that many Hmong American women—and men—face in the bumpy transition to a more equitable cultural identity.”
Gayle L. Morrison, author of Sky Is Falling: An Oral History of the CIA’s Evacuation of the Hmong from Laos

“This modest collection of wisdom and experiences is a powerful glimpse into the time-tested mind, heart, and soul of Hmong women. Whether you have been fanning the flames or caught in the smoke and mirrors, this mosaic of stories shines an essential light on the truth of it all. The journey of Hmong women is a significant piece of Hmong history that undeniably demonstrates the strength, growth, beauty, and love of our community.”
Fres Thao, poet, multidisciplinary artist, and author of Lullabies for Happiness: A Manual for Love and Peace

“This wonderful compilation of work by Hmong poets and writers will serve as an inspiration for many.”
Lee Pao Xiong, Director, Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University

Reading guide

Staring Down the Tiger Reading Guide by Pa Der Vang (PDF)
(The contents of this guide are included at the end of the book.)

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 192 pages
  • 6 b&w photos, Reading Guide
  • 5.5 X 8.5 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341507

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