One World Series Keynote Speaker National Author

By Barb Lang

One World Arts, Literature, and Film Festival will conclude on Saturday, May 10 with a reading and discussion with nationally-known author Kao Kalia Yang, author of “The Latehomecomer:  A HKao Kaiamong Family Memoir.”  She will be the keynote speaker at the Northwest Wisconsin Writer’s Festival at 4:30 p.m. at UW-Barron County in Rice Lake.  This event is open to the public at no charge.

The award-winning book depicts the journey that her parent’s generation took in search of a place to call home.  In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to the United States, but their experiences remain largely unknown. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir is a tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them together through their imprisonment in Laos, their narrow escape into Thailand’s Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, their immigration to St. Paul when Yang was only six years old, and their transition to life in America. It is also an eloquent, firsthand account of a people who have worked hard to make their voices heard.

Yang will read from both The Latehomecomer and her new work, Still, Fluttering Heart: The Second Album, the story of her father’s life told in “songs.”  Garnering a prestigious McKnight Fellowship for this new manuscript from the Loft Literary Center, Yang explains, “Organized like an album, it is my homage to traditional Hmong song poetry, my father's artistic form. It is the story of how a young boy without a father finds in poetry the power to connect with a bigger world. It is the story of how a man losing his mother loses the songs that taught him how to love. It is a document of how men like my father, blue collared men across this country, shelter their families through their underpaid, unappreciated, dangerous work in America's factories, and how the work kills.”

“The Latehomecomer” has been awarded the 2008 Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, the 2009 Minnesota Book Award, 2009 Minnesota Readers’ Choice Award, 2009 Skipping Stones Honor Award, 2009 Asian American Literary Award, and was named a finalist for the 2010 PEN USA Literary Award for Nonfiction.

Born in 1980, Kao Kalia Yang is the co-founder of a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. A graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University, Yang also co-hosts a weekly radio program focusing on the Hmong community and has recently released “The Place Where We Were Born,” a film documenting the experiences of Hmong American refugees.

Co-sponsored by UW-Barron County and the Rice Lake Public Library, the series is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.

For more information contact Project Director Lee Friederich, UW-BC professor of English, at or 715-234-8176.


Lee Friederich