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.
In The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father,
Kao Kalia Yang 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 has burnished a life of poverty for his
children, polishing their grim reality so that they might shine.
The Song Poet won the 2016
Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir, and was a finalist
for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Chautauqua Prize, a PEN
USA Award in Nonfiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.
Kao Kalia Yang is also the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, winner
of the 2009 Minnesota Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and
Readers Choice, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative
Nonfiction and the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction. Her third book, a
children’s picture book, A Map Into the World, will be out in fall of 2019.