Language and culture are two sides of the same coin; you might be a fluent Hmong speaker, but unless you understand the cultural context of Hmong life, you’ll find yourself perpetually unaware in your interactions. In acknowledgement of that fact, the following resources, organized generally by category, are designed to give you an appreciation of the cultural context of the contemporary Hmong diaspora in the United States.
Minnesota Historical Society, Hmong Timeline
- Offering a broad overview of the full extent of Hmong history, this website is an excellent resource to those unfamiliar with how the Hmong arrived in the United States. With updates as late as 2015, this resource will almost certainly be updated after the results of the last census are made public, offering a more accurate understanding of the current demographics of Hmong America.
Lee, Mai Na M. Dreams of the Hmong Kingdom: The Quest for Legitimation in French Indochina, 1850-1960 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2015).
- As the authoritative text on pre-war Hmong life, this book offers a deep look at the inter-clan rivalries, colonial policies, and other formative forces that still impact Hmong life today. By ending its analysis prior to the Secret War, this book also manages to represent more traditional Hmong life in Southeast Asia, allowing for a better understanding of the impact of U.S. imperialism in Laos.
Vang, Chia Youyee. Hmong America: Reconstructing Community in Diaspora (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2010).
- Picking up after the Secret War, this book tells the story of Hmong resettlement in the United States, focusing on the ways that the Hmong have built new lives in the U.S. while holding on to their customs and culture. While only covering up until 2010, this text is still an important document of the first 40 years of Hmong America, setting a foundation that will allow for a much better understanding of current events.
Vang, Chia Youyee, Faith Nibbs, and Ma Vang, eds. Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016).
- As an anthology that spans several different genres and disciplines, this text offers a broad overview of Hmong women and their contemporary status in the diaspora. Often overlooked due to the patriarchal nature of both Hmong and American society, this text is a necessary and timely intervention that provides rare insight into one of the most significant struggles of contemporary Hmong (and Hmong American) life.
- A complicated film that showcases Clint Eastwood interacting with the Hmong community in Detroit, Michigan, this movie is a telling look at the challenges facing Hmong America today. This film has major flaws, and thus should be watched in combination with any of the numerous reviews and responses from the Hmong community. Taken together, however, this film and its critiques tells the story of Hmong America and the challenges of contemporary life (in ways the movie intended to and in ways that it did not).
Yang, Kao Kalia. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2017).
- Perhaps the single most famous and influential piece of Hmong American literature, Kao Kalia Yang tells the story of her family’s journey from Laos to the United States, focused on the figure of her grandmother, the titular latehomecomer. An incredibly moving and personal read, this text offers a uniquely personal insight into Hmong culture and the nostalgia, loss, and rebirth of the contemporary diaspora.
- Although not all Hmong Americans recognize the authority of this organization, the website is an excellent location for updates on the most pressing issues in Hmong society. Frequently updated with cultural guides, videos, and public service announcements, the Council’s efforts to standardize Hmong American life offer substantial insight into the contemporary zeitgeist of Hmong America.