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Diversity in DiasporaHmong Americans in the Twenty-First Century$
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Mark Edward Pfeifer, Monica Chiu, and Kou Yang

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824835972

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824835972.001.0001

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Haunting and Inhabitation in Yang’s Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

Haunting and Inhabitation in Yang’s Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

(p.247) 11 Haunting and Inhabitation in Yang’s Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir
Diversity in Diaspora

Monica Chiu

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter argues that Kao Kalia Yang's memoir, The Latehomecomer (2008), exposes Hmong invisibility. But it does so without mimicking the standard form and function of recorded and translated ethnographic autobiographies of the 1990s. Certainly like these others, hers offers a historical and materialist approach to undocumented lives; but unlike its predecessors, Yang's prioritizes the spiritual as an intellectually useful structure in which to ground her family's refugee experiences. Amid the impermanence and mobility of a refugee life, Yang builds a foundation, ironically, on the ethereal and the abstract. The spirituality infused in shamanism and animism, in the cultural influence of folk stories, and in a collective family memory based on experiences about which Yang has only heard is more solid than the material, concrete domiciles among which she constantly moves in Thailand and America. Yang succeeds in rendering Hmong visible through what most would deem the invisible.

Keywords:   The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang, memoir, ethnographic autobiographies, shamanism, animism, spirituality, family memory, undocumented lives, refugee life

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