Kao Kalia Yang, a Hmong American writer, joined the Fair Trade Market at The Basilica of Saint Mary on Sunday, December 7, 2014. Her interest in attending this annual event centered around helping people understand her father's song poetry. She has a new book, The Song Poet, being released in January 2015 by Metropolitan Books. Kalia expressed a deep understanding of her Hmong culture and continued journey. The interview helped me understand her feeling of love, growth and spiritual connection to Hmong traditions.
Many refugees search for a place to call home. In Yang’s first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, she explores her personal journey to America. Her book is not just a refugee story. According to the author, her books are an exploration of “what is ever weighing on my heart.” She captures the human experience for each generation in her family. Primarily her first book is a tribute to her grandmother’s remarkable spiritual strength that kept them all together during the years from war-torn Laos to Ban Vinai, a Thai refugee camp, and finally to Minnesota.
Kao Kalia Yang has a sincere dedication to her family’s story. In her new book, The Song Poet, she tells the story of her father's struggle to find beauty in the war torn jungles of Loas and refugee camps of Thailand. The author noted that the poetry of her father, Npis Yai-Bee Yang, “carries Hmong words through a hard life, and distills from the sorrows, strength of heart, and appreciation of beauty.” Her father’s song poetry CD was made possible by a Minnesota Arts grant. His songs started developing years ago as he went from neighbor to neighbor in Laos to learn hope. Her father felt that one day all the words in his heart escaped and songs were born.
In one of his poetry songs, Npis Yai-Bee Yang concluded, “In our life time we have loved well and deep, let our love flourish far beyond us. Let us love into time. Let us love with no end, no goodbyes. The universal beauty of life is filled with a spiritual understanding that youth passes and wisdom enters.”
In addition to her books and promotion of her father’s song poetry, Yang created a lyric documentary. The Place Where We Were Born, uses photos from a physician who served in her refugee camp where she was born. The photos became very important to Yang because her birth place no longer exists. When she was six years old, Yang’s family immigrated to America. She is proud of her personal development, family, and Hmong culture. Her name, Kao Kalia, was a gift from her beloved grandmother and means “the girl with dimples.” Learning about Yang’s dreams, wisdom and traditions helps to build a sensitivity to the Hmong refugee experience.
During the months of December and January, The Basilica of Saint Mary focuses on global stewardship and the journey of refugees.
Linda Goldetsky has been an active parishioner since 2002. She co-chaired the Fair Trade Market, and has served on the Global Stewardship Team since 2009. She has also participated in JustFaith, our Mental Health Awareness ministry and been a Basilica Block Party volunteer.