Writing the Story Behind ‘The Late Homecoming’
by Mallary Tenore Tarpley
Earlier this week I interviewed Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Late Homecoming: A Hmong Family Memoir. While talking with her, I was struck by how beautifully she spoke. It was as though her writing and speaking voice were synonymous. Having read her book, I grew to appreciate her poetic style of writing, and I listened with earnest as she shared the back-story of her book with me.
In both her book and in our conversation, Yang spoke candidly about her struggles as a writer and as a Hmong American. For much of Yang’s early life, she struggled to survive. Born in a Thai refugee camp in the aftermath of the Secret War, Yang fled to America with her family at age 6. As she grew older, she struggled to adjust to a new lifestyle, a new culture, a new home. She began writing about her family’s journey in her early 20s, she said, because the story of Hmong Americans had not yet been told.
In talking with Yang, I learned a lot about how writing The Latehomcoming helped her to remember and recount pieces of her past.
As a child, Kao Kalia Yang immersed herself in books. She read about the Vietnamese, the Chinese and the Japanese, but she could never find books about the people she identified with best, the people of Hmong.
So at age 23, she decided to write her own story.
It took four years, but the result was The Latehomecomer, which Coffee House Press released this spring. Hailed by Publishers Weekly as a “moving, unforgettable” book, The Latehomecomer details the arduous journey Ms. Yang’s family took from Laos to the refugee camps in Thailand to America in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. She’ll discuss that journey, and her book, today in Allen.