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Hmong Writers and Poets Write Their Culture and Their Future

Discussion
Oct 22, 2012
by: CWP ISAW

From the Hmong American Writer's Circle website:

"Finding our place in literature has been a challenge. Although creative expression within Hmong history and culture is evident in our oral stories, oral poetry, textile art and the playing of various bamboo instruments—what we would categorize as heritage art forms—one will quickly discover that, even in this category, there are no novels, plays, or collections of poems, essays or short stories. There is no account of Hmong life preserved in writing by a Hmong hand and passed down through the centuries.

Some say we had a written language believed to have been lost from forced assimilation under Imperial China thousands of years ago, that our women disguised the characters of that writing system as clothing embroidery (paj ntaub). But even the meanings of these symbols have become indecipherable.

In the 1950s, a century after our migration out of China into the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia, several writing systems were developed for our dialect. But the concept of writing as an art form did not exist for us then as we still depended heavily—and artistically—on the spoken word.

From the late 70s to the early 90s, hundreds of thousands of Hmong who had been covertly recruited and trained by the CIA to repel Communist forces in Laos began resettling in the United States. It was with the adoption of the English language that Hmong Americans are now witnessing the early stages of a literary tradition. And like the rest of Western society, we have begun to emphasize the written word.

It is exciting to be Hmong these days, and to finally write."

Link here to learn more about the writer's circle: http://www.hmongwriters.org/index.html

Link here to read samplers of their writing: http://www.hmongwriters.org/resources.html