Cover image for The song poet : a memoir of my father
Title:
The song poet : a memoir of my father
ISBN:
9781681681627
Edition:
Unabridged.
Physical Description:
7 audio discs (8 hr., 5 min.) : CD audio, digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact discs.
Genre:
Summary:
From the author of The Latehomecomer, a powerful memoir of her father, a Hmong song poet who sacrificed his gift for his children's future in America In the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of his people, their history and tragedies, joys and losses; extemporizing or drawing on folk tales, he keeps the past alive, invokes the spirits and the homeland, and records courtships, births, weddings, and wishes. Following her award-winning book The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang now retells the life of her father Bee Yang, the song poet, a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by American's Secret War. Bee lost his father as a young boy and keenly felt his orphanhood. He would wander from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other, whispering the words to himself at night until, one day, a song was born. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. But the songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a Minneapolis housing project and on the factory floor until, with the death of Bee's mother, the songs leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has polished a life of poverty for his children, burnished their grim reality so that they might shine. Written with the exquisite beauty for which Kao Kalia Yang is renowned, The Song Poet is a love story -- of a daughter for her father, a father for his children, a people for their land, their traditions, and all that they have lost.
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Summary

Summary

In the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of his people, their history and tragedies, joys and losses; extemporizing or drawing on folk tales, he keeps the past alive, invokes the spirits and the homeland, and records courtships, births, weddings, and wishes. Following her award-winning book The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang now retells the life of her father Bee Yang, the song poet, a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by American's Secret War. Bee lost his father as a young boy and keenly felt his orphanhood. He would wander from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other, whispering the words to himself at night until, one day, a song was born. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. But the songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a Minneapolis housing project and on the factory floor until, with the death of Bee's mother, the songs leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has polished a life of poverty for his children, burnished their grim reality so that they might shine.


Author Notes

Kao Kalia Yang is the author of The Latehomecomer, which was a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award and the Asian American Literary Award, and received the 2009 Minnesota Book Award. Kao, who has taught at Columbia University and Concordia University-St. Paul, among other places, lives in Minnesota.
 


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this beautifully-written memoir, Yang (The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir) tells the story of her father, a poet who composed kwv txhiaj in his native Hmong. These songs, she says, taught her how the human heart operates, shielded her from poverty, and showed her windows where she had only ever seen walls. Yang pitches the story as a narrative of how a song poet came to be, from his childhood in Laos, to his flight to America as young adult, to his life there as the father of many. Surprisingly, however, she hardly provides any songs at all, or shows any interest in them after the book's introductory pitch. There's no mention of songs created by the child in Laos who might have first experimented with words as he played with his brother, nor by the father who might have used his songs to teach his children what it means to be an immigrant and factory worker. That aside, the story is engrossing as a straight-up narrative of this spirited man's life. The daughter's love for her father is described in words as gorgeous as those that (she assures us) the song poet often spoke. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

Yang, author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (2008), builds upon that beautiful chronicle in this hauntingly lyrical tribute to her beloved father. As she recounts his life as a fatherless child, a refugee, and a stranger in a strange land, a portrait emerges of a spiritual man who heals his soul and elevates the lives of his children with the rich artistry of his homespun compositions. To put it in accessible American terms, Bee Yang raps, jazzes, and sings the blues when he dwells in the landscape of traditional Hmong song poetry. Keeping alive the stories, the history, and the culture of his homeland, he passes them along to his children through an art form steeped in centuries of tradition and lore. Barely keeping poverty at bay, he makes sure his family warm and secure through the bitterly cold Minnesota winters, paying homage to their collective heritage until time and bitter circumstances steal the songs. A memorable and moving immigrant story.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2016 Booklist


Kirkus Review

A daughter tells her father's story in his own voice. Award-winning memoirist Yang (The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, 2008) focuses on her father, Bee Yang, who transformed his experiences and family's history into songs. Yang and her siblings grew up surrounded by them: "my father sings his songs, grows them into long, stretching stanzas of four or fiveraps, jazzes, and sings the blues when he dwells in the landscape of traditional Hmong song poetry." Bee gave up singing after his mother died, in 2003, but as an adult, the author discovered the one cassette he had recorded and was struck by the songs' "humor, irony, astute cultural and political criticism." Yang's evocative, often moving memoir, told from Bee's perspective, reveals a life of struggle, hardship, deep love, and strong family ties. Bee was born during the Laotian civil war and grew to adulthood during the French occupation and the Vietnam War; "more and more men in uniforms entered our lives," he remembered, and Hmong men and boys were recruited to aid the Americans. In 1975, when the Americans left Laos and the communists took over, "genocide was declared against the Hmong for helping the Americans." Yang recounts in harrowing detail the persecution Bee and his community suffered. By 1980, Bee, his young wife, and baby daughter ended up in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, in Thailand, where their second daughter, the author, was born. During the eight years the family lived there, Bee was forced by Thai soldiers to transport opium "from one uniformed guard to the next," a mission he hated but carried out with "fear and shame." At last, they came to America, where Bee took arduous factory work to support his growing family. Although he encountered prejudice and exploitation, he never lost hope for his children's futures. Yang's gentle prose captures her father's sufferings and joys and serves as a loving celebration of his spirit. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

Yang (The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir) here offers another engrossing, beautifully written memoir, this time focusing on her father, Bee Yang. In Hmong tradition, a song poet recounts the history, tragedies, and joys of his people and homeland, keeping the past alive. Born sometime in 1958 ("No one looked at a calendar or wrote down the date"), Bee Yang grew up under the shadow of the Laotian civil war as well as the Vietnam War. After the Americans left Laos, the newly empowered Communists targeted the Hmong for aiding the United States. Forced to flee his village, Bee Yang took his young family through the jungle to Thailand's Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, where the author was born. The difficulties did not end when the family immigrated to the United States. Like many other Hmong relocated to Minnesota, Yang's -father and mother worked extremely hard to provide their children with the chance for a good education and an easier life. Yang reads her own exquisite prose, crafting a deeply moving tribute to her father and the Hmong people, as well as to the struggles facing immigrant families. VERDICT Essential for all memoir collections. ["Yang powerfully demonstrates that much of what society doesn't hold valuable-talents that don't translate into monetary or educational success-still carry immense value": LJ 6/1/16 starred review of the Metropolitan: Holt hc.]-Beth Farrell, Cleveland State Univ. Law Lib. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.