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Winner of the 2017 Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction
Finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN USA Literary Center Award, and the Dayton Literary Peace PrizeIn the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of his people, their history and tragedies, joys and losses. He keeps the past alive, invokes the spirits and the homeland, and records courtships, births, weddings, and wishes.
Following her award-winning memoir The Latehomecomer, Kao Kalia Yang now retells the life of her father, Bee Yang, the song poet—a Hmong refugee in Minnesota, driven from the mountains of Laos by America’s Secret War. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. The songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a St. Paul housing project and on the factory floor, until, with the death of Bee’s mother, they leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has burnished a life of poverty for his children, polishing their grim reality so that they might shine.