Village ladies enjoying their leisure time chatting and doing Hmong embroidery, 1977.
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.
Mua 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, Mua 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 US where 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 Asia
Edited 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 Diaspora
Edited 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.
Culture and Customs of the Hmong
by Dr. Gary Yia Lee and Nicholas Tapp
Greenwood Press, Santa Barbara, CA (2010)
Culture and Customs of the Hmong takes a global approach to understanding the Hmong, a people who have lived in China for more than 4,000 years. It is the first book to combine an account of the traditional life and history of the Hmong with a full account of their modern, urban lifestyle, balancing traditional life ways and practices with modern, evolving customs.
The book is unique in dealing, not only with the Hmong in the United States, Australia, and other Western nations, but also with their traditional and changing lives in their Asian homelands of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. This broad international perspective allows readers to look at the Hmong through the complex interplay of the many social, historical, economic, and cultural influences they have been exposed to in their worldwide migration, and at how they manage to maintain their many traditions across national boundaries and great distances.
This book is the first to balance an account of the traditional life and history of the Hmong as a global people, with a full account of their modern, urban lives and includes:
• A chronology from the earliest history of the Hmong to the present day
• Numerous photographs depicting Hmong culture and artifacts
• Glossaries of English, Hmong, Latin, and Chinese terms
The Impact of Globalization and Trans-nationalism on the Hmong
Edited by Dr. Gary Yia Lee
St. Paul, MN: Center for Hmong Studies, Concordia University – St Paul, 2009
This small volume of 131 pages contains papers selected from the 2006 first International Conference on Hmong Studies sponsored by the Hmong Studies Center at Concordia University - St Paul. The conference was attended by more than 500 participants from around the world, and attracted over 30 presentations by scholars on the Hmong. The papers include:
“Animal Sacrifice and Social Meanings in Hmong American Funerals” by Dr. Vincent K. Her.
“Effects of Globalization on Hmong Children’s Health in a Thailand Village” by Dr. Kathleen A. Culhane-Pera.
“The Thai Hmong and Hmong Refugees in Thailand: the Politics of Human Rights” by Lee Lor.
“Leadership Development: a Critical Component to Advancing Hmong Society in the United States” by Dr. Mai Moua.
“Hmong Culture is Hmong Soul” by Dr. Yang Dao.
“Chinese Loan Words Used in the Hmong Diaspora” by Xiong Yu You and Shua Yang.
“Ethnic Culture Presentation Coordinated by Government and Folks in China” by Prof. Yang Zhengwen.
“The Experience of Hmong Americans: Three Decades in Retrospective Review” by Dr Kou Yang.
“The Hmong Mountains: Space and Culture in Northern Thailand” by Dr Maren Tomfordde, and
“Transnational Space and Social Memories: Why the Hmong in the Diaspora Cannot Forget Laos” by Dr. Gary Yia Lee.