I Begin My Life All Over: The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience

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I Begin My Life All Over is an oral history of 36 real-life strangers in a strange land, an intimate study of the immigrant experience in contemporary America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Faderman has collected oral histories from individuals ranging from adults who escaped through the jungles of Laos, to the American-born teenagers anxious to negotiate a balance between the American life they see on television and the scars of their familial and ethnic history. —Hanya Yanagihara, A Magazine

"Faderman supplies invaluable historical context, told succinctly and well, for the narratives. She also weaves brief personal anecdotes throughout the book and draws parallels between the Hmongs' experiences and those of her own life as a first-generation American and of her mother's, a Jewish immigrant."—Jeanne F. Brooks, The San Diego Union-Tribune

"That these immigrants have endured so much and lived to tell the tale is almost more than the average reader can comprehend. I Begin My Life All Over belongs on everyone's reading list; this is truly a book to be grateful for."—Gish Jen, author of Typical American and Mona in the Promised Land

"The root of the book is Hmong individuals' personal, true-life stories, and they make for powerful reading."—Jaime Meyer, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"Faderman's inclusion of the Hmong's history in Laos and China . . . deepens our awareness of the obstacles they've overcome in adjusting to their new country. This enriching book fulfills the author's aim 'to capture [the Hmongs'] living voices, and to make those voices resound in the reader's ears.'"
-Publishers Weekly

"Lillian Faderman and Ghia Xiong have compiled this collection of oral histories with care and sensitivity. Readers who share their communities with Hmong refugees could learn much about their neighbors—and perhaps about themselves as well—from the varied and compelling viewpoints it presents."—Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Hanya Yanagihara
...[T]he book shines when she lets her characters speak for themselves...invite[s] a reconsideration of our definition of Asian American. —A. Magazine
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Faderman Speaking for Ourselves offers a perspective on immigration to this country that artfully combines the personal and the universal. By linking together 35 narratives from Hmong immigrants displaced from their native Laos by the war in Vietnam, she uncovers their common concerns, such as gender relations, parental control and assimilation to technology. Many first-generation Hmong came to the U.S. from relocation camps in Thailand, after escaping the Communists, and those experiences have shaped their interaction within the technology-based American culture. However, second-generation Hmong straddle the demands of their birthplace with the expectations of their parents. The differences between these generations offer a clear picture of what the Hmong and other immigrant groups face when confronted by societal change. Faderman's inclusion of the Hmong's history in Laos and China provides a context for the first-person accounts and deepens our awareness of the obstacles they've overcome in adjusting to their new country. This enriching book fulfills the author's aim "to capture [the Hmongs'] living voices, and to make those voices resound in the reader's ears."
Hanya Yanagihara
...[T]he book shines when she lets her characters speak for themselves...invite[s] a reconsideration of our definition of Asian American. -- A. Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
An oral history that strongly conveys the searing social and emotional upheavals faced by tens of thousands of Hmong people who have fled communist Laos to live in this country. Faderman (English and Lesbian Studies/California State Univ., Fresno; Surpassing the Love of Men) and her translator and intermediary, Ghia Xiong, interviewed 53 Hmong immigrants, ranging in age from 11 to 66, over a two-year period, beginning in 1994. The words of 33 of the Hmong—most of them residents of central California—appear here in edited form. Faderman uses the testimony effectively to tell representative stories that shed light on the experiences of the some 130,000 Hmong who have come here since the American war in Indochina ended in 1975. Many fought for this country in the so-called "secret war" in Laos. Faderman's goal is to use the Hmong expatriates' words to represent the entire immigrant experience in the U.S. The Hmong story, Faderman says, reveals "the fabric that has gone into the making of Americans." Faderman's Hmong tell sorrowful tales of a nomadic tribal people forced from their homeland into horrific detention camps in Thailand, only to struggle in every imaginable fashion once they reached the U.S. Most of the Hmong speak of severe social dislocation and generational confrontations between traditional elders and rebellious young people. Many of the stories, though, contain some positive news, usually involving the younger generation. In her chapter introductions Faderman weaves in stories about her immigrant mother that often abruptly interrupt the otherwise smooth narratives. She also includes intimate details of her own life that seem decidedly out of place in thisotherwise enlightening book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807072356
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,264,074
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Lillian Faderman is author of three critically acclaimed books and has edited two influential texts in multiethnic studies. Two of her books have been named New York Times Notable Books of the Year, and she has won American Library Association Awards and Lambda Literary Awards. She lives and teaches in Fresno, California.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2000


    I Begin My Life All Over is a very informative and interesting book. I learned alot about the Hmong from it. It is neatly broken down into sections so it is very easy to find what you are looking for. I recomend this book to any one interested in the Hmong, or anyone who doesn't know who the Hmong are, because it is very educational. It is a quick read: I finished it in 2 days. Definatly worth reading!!

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