My older sister, Ntxhiav (L) with a cousin
Vientiane, Laos, 1963
I have always loved to play with words, and I write poetry for my own enjoyment. My very traditional metrical poems are mostly about love, my beautiful wife and my dear family. However, I found that they appeal to many readers of this website. “The Lost Beloved” was a favourite and has been reprinted a number of times in various publications.
I’ve included here, poems which I wrote during lonely hours I spent in the USA in 2007. They read like personal poetry, but they are not. They are inspired by sentiments and situations based on: watching tearjerker Korean movies, listening to songs, reading poems by other established or aspiring writers, thinking of home, watching Hmong at New Year celebrations and talking to young people about their feelings concerning life and love.
I hope you enjoy reading them.
Dust of Life: A True Ban Vinai Love Story (Novel)by Dr. Gary Yia Lee It was 1977 and Ban Vinai had just been set up as a refugee camp for thousands of Hmong who fled the new communist regime in Laos to the safety of Thailand. Mua, a young Hmong man, had recently completed his university studies and was living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was asked by Pafua, a Hmong girl in Ban Vinai refugee camp, Thailand, to help sponsor her and her family to settle in the United States. Although he hardly knew her, he travelled to Thailand to see what he could do. It was agreed that if they got on well, he would marry her and apply for her and her family to come and live with him in America. In the meantime, he went to work on a Thai government project with Hmong opium growers in Chiangmai where he met a young Thai woman named Phorn. She was the opposite to the Hmong girl in many ways and he became inadvertently involved with her. After a few months of visits and courtship, Moua asked Pafua for marriage. To his dismay, her mother refused him her hand. Hurt and disappointed, he turned to Phorn but would soon learn that she was very different from what he understood her to be. Shattered by these events, he returned to the USwhere he continued to work for Hmong refugees. It was not until many years later when Mua went to Australia, where Pafua and her mother had gone to live, that he discovered the awful truth about her refusal to marry him - a discovery that would profoundly affect him for the rest of his life. This novel is both a mystery and a love story. It is about the Hmong as much as the Thai people and their cultures. The author, who is an anthropologist, has woven many facts into the book that will help the reader appreciate different facets of life among the poor in Thailand, the recent history of the Hmong refugees from Laos, their difficult life in the refugee camp of Ban Vinai and their rich traditions. The novel can also be seen at a metaphorical level as a representation of the Hmong people who, like the male protagonist in the story, live in many different worlds going from one country (or woman) to another and never feeling fully welcome. He wants to become Westernised to be accepted in America but loses his Hmong heritage in the process – again like the Hmong in the diaspora who are forced to assimilate into other cultures only to lose their very own. “Dust of Life, great book! Well written for a first time Hmong author. I fell in love with Pahua. I found myself in Mua. The descriptions were amazing and poetic. 4/5 stars”. - Dai Thao “I stayed up and read it until 1am. It was very well written and easy to read. The poetry is beautiful. I was so absorbed by the story. Is it based on the author's own life? I could not forget it for 4-5 days after I finished the book. I told my friends about it and they all want to read it. We are so pleased it was written by one of our very own" - Manivong
Hmong/Miao in AsiaEdited by Nicholas Tapp, Jean Michaud, Christian Culas, and Dr. Gary Yia Lee Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004 This volume presents the most comprehensive collection of research on Hmong culture and life in Asia yet to be published. It compliments the abundant material on the Hmong diaspora by focusing instead on the Hmong in their Asian homeland. The contributors are scholars from a number of different backgrounds with a deep knowledge of Hmong society and culture, including several Hmong. The first group of essays addresses the fabric of Hmong culture by considering issues of history, language, and identity among the Hmong/Miao from Laos to China. The second part introduces the challenges faced by the Hmong in contemporary Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Nicholas Tapp is senior fellow in anthropology at the Australian National University. Jean Michaud is associate researcher in Asian studies at Université de Montréal. Christian Culas is a member of the National Center for Scientific Research in Marseille. Gary Yia Lee was a former senior ethnic liaison officer for New South Wales government in Australia.
The Hmong People of Australia: Culture and DiasporaEdited by Nicholas Tapp and Dr. Gary Yia Lee Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2004 The Hmong first arrived in Australia in 1975 from war-torn Laos, settling in Australia as a small population of under 2,000. In Australia, as in other resettlement countries, the Hmong have been active in founding local and national associations, and there is alarm about the younger generation's loss of traditional cultural heritage. The Australian Hmong is a small community, but a dynamic and rapidly changing one. This collection of interdisciplinary papers - ranging across anthropology and linguistics, musicology, material culture, gender issues and sociology - gives the general reader an introduction to this fascinating and relatively unknown community as well as an understanding of the wide range of issues which research on the Hmong in Australia has covered to date. Both editors have extensive experience of Hmong populations in Asia and bring this experience to bear on a project that deals solely with the Hmong in an Australian context. The contributors to the book represent virtually all the serious researchers who have devoted their attentions to the Hmong in Australia. In many ways the book is a tribute to the richness and importance of the cultural system the Hmong of today have inherited. In other ways more abstract issues to do with the effects of globalisation on local communities, social changes and the relationship of minority groups to the state, are also addressed. As such, this collection contributes to general understandings of processes of social change among recent immigrants to new countries of settlement, the relations they may hold with homelands and the new relations forged with other diasporic communities overseas.