Cover image for The latehomecomer : a Hmong family memoir
The latehomecomer : a Hmong family memoir
1st ed.
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, 2008.
Physical Description:
277 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
Seeking refuge -- A walk in the jungle -- Enemy camp -- Refugees -- Ban Vinai refugee camp -- The second leaving -- Phanat Nikhom transition camp to America -- A return to the clouds -- Before the babies -- Coming of the son -- The haunted section-8 house -- Our moldy house -- When the tiger comes -- Preparations -- Good-bye to Grandma -- Walking back alone -- Hmong in America.
Reading Level:
890 L Lexile
Presents the journey from refuge camp to America and the hardships and joys of a family's struggle to adapt in a strange culture while holding onto traditions that are passed down from her beloved grandmother.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 YANG 1 1
Book 921 YANG 0 1
Book 921 YANG 1 1
Book 921 YANG 0 2
Book 921 YANG 1 2

On Order



In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family's story after her grandmother's death, The Latehomecomer is Kao Kalia Yang's tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together. It is also an eloquent, firsthand account of a people who have worked hard to make their voices heard.

Beginning in the 1970s, as the Hmong were being massacred for their collaboration with the United States during the Vietnam War, Yang recounts the harrowing story of her family's captivity, the daring rescue undertaken by her father and uncles, and their narrow escape into Thailand where Yang was born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp.

When she was six years old, Yang's family immigrated to America, and she evocatively captures the challenges of adapting to a new place and a new language. Through her words, the dreams, wisdom, and traditions passed down from her grandmother and shared by an entire community have finally found a voice.

Together with her sister, Kao Kalia Yang is the founder of a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. A graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University, Yang has recently screened The Place Where We Were Born , a film documenting the experiences of Hmong American refugees. Visit her website at

Author Notes

Born in a Thai refugee camp in 1980, Kao Kalia Yang immigrated to Minnesota when she was six. Together with her sister, she founded Words Wanted, a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. A graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University, Yang has also recently completed a short film on the Hmong American refugee experience.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Yang, cofounder of the immigrant-services company Words Wanted, was born in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand in 1980. Her grandmother had wanted to stay in the camp, to make it easier for her spirit to find its way back to her birthplace when she died, but people knew it would soon be liquidated. America looked promising, so Yang and her family, along with scores of other Hmong, left the jungles of Thailand to fly to California, then settle in St. Paul, Minn. In many ways, these hardworking refugees followed the classic immigrant arc, with the adults working double jobs so the children could get an education and be a credit to the community. But the Hmong immigrants were also unique-coming from a non-Christian, rain forest culture, with no homeland to imagine returning to, with hardly anyone in America knowing anything about them. As Yang wryly notes, they studied the Vietnam War at school, without their lessons ever mentioning that the Hmong had been fighting for the Americans. Yang tells her family's story with grace; she narrates their struggles, beautifully weaving in Hmong folklore and culture. By the end of this moving, unforgettable book, when Yang describes the death of her beloved grandmother, readers will delight at how intimately they have become part of this formerly strange culture. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Most Americans are relatively ignorant of Hmong history and culture. In fact, many have a negative perception of this immigrant group. For example, few are aware of the fact that the Hmong fought on the American side during the Vietnam War. In this beautiful memoir, Yang recounts the harrowing journey of her family from Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand to the U.S. Eventually settling in St. Paul, Minnesota, their struggle was not over. Adapting to a new community that often did not understand nor want them was difficult. This difficulty was compounded by the fact that the Hmong, despite possessing a rich folkloric tradition, have no written language of their own. Determined to tell the story of both her family and her people, Yang intimately chronicles the immigrant experience from the Hmong perspective, providing a long-overdue contribution to the history and literature of ethnic America.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2008 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Yang (cofounder, Words Wanted), of the Southeast Asian Hmong people, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980. Her family was forced to flee the Pathet Lao, of Laos, who singled out the Hmong in retribution for their aiding the Americans during the Vietnam War. With no homeland to return to and not necessarily welcome in Thailand, Yang's family took the opportunity to come to the United States and make a new life. Through all the tumult, Yang's grandmother was a particularly loving influence, providing strength and the stories that molded Yang's identity as a Hmong woman as her family settled in St. Paul, MN. Unable to trust her "voice" in English, Yang struggled in school until an English teacher recognized her talent and encouraged her writing. She is indeed a natural storyteller. Yang chronicles her family's journey and draws the reader into the Hmong culture with the stories she shares along the way. Most powerfully rendered is her relationship with her grandmother. Highly recommended for both public libraries and academic libraries with Asia collections.--Patti C. McCall, Albany Molecular Research, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Seeking Refugep. 1
People of the Sky
Chapter 1 A Walk in the Junglep. 7
Chapter 2 Enemy Campp. 20
Chapter 3 Refugeesp. 39
The Little Girl With the Dimples
Chapter 4 Ban Vinai Refugee Campp. 55
Chapter 5 The Second Leavingp. 78
Chapter 6 Phanat Nikhom Transition Camp to Americap. 91
Chapter 7 A Return to the Cloudsp. 115
The American Years
Chapter 8 Before the Babiesp. 131
Chapter 9 Coming of the Sonp. 152
Chapter 10 The Haunted Section-8 Housep. 180
Chapter 11 Our Moldy Housep. 193
The Latehomecomer
Chapter 12 When the Tiger Comesp. 213
Chapter 13 Preparationsp. 232
Chapter 14 Good-bye to Grandmap. 239
Chapter 15 Walking Back Alonep. 249
Homong in Americap. 271