Writing the Story Behind ‘The Late Homecoming’

Kao Kalia Yang
Kao Kalia Yang

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.

Click here to read more about Yang and her book:

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.


Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

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