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

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

4.0 1
by Lillian Faderman, Ghia Xiong
     
 
"I Begin My Life All Over" records the story of 35 Hmong immigrants to California, tracing their journey from Laos to relocation to a new continent, and a new century. Throughout these first-person narratives, Lillian Faderman provides historical context, and draws rich comparisons between the experience of the Hmong in the 1990s and her mother's immigration from

Overview

"I Begin My Life All Over" records the story of 35 Hmong immigrants to California, tracing their journey from Laos to relocation to a new continent, and a new century. Throughout these first-person narratives, Lillian Faderman provides historical context, and draws rich comparisons between the experience of the Hmong in the 1990s and her mother's immigration from Eastern European "shtetls" in the 1930s. 288 pp. West Coast publicity.

Editorial Reviews

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." Photos. (Apr.)
VOYA - Laura L. Lent
Like other oral historians, Faderman begins her book with a short introduction describing the Hmong peoples' origins, lifestyle, traditions, and persecution. She points out the generational conflict that has emerged and disrupted traditional Hmong family life since migrating to the United States and talks about the disappointments and alienation that many immigrants feel. The second chapter focuses on the people who shared their stories. Faderman's and Xiong's cross-section of interviewees and the information they obtained is outstanding considering the language barrier and distrust they had to overcome. Excerpts from these narratives are used to develop the two main parts of this book. The first part focuses on life in a typical Hmong village, the terror and persecution Hmongs experienced as the Communists began to infiltrate Laos, and the escape methods the Hmong people used to get to relocation camps. The second part discusses Hmong arrival in the United States and the culture shock they suffered when immersed in a modern, technologically-controlled environment. Part two also looks at the problems caused by assimilation and how this process has affected Hmong religious beliefs, sexual roles, and parental authority. The author insightfully shows the hold that gangs have over immigrant youth, ascertaining that gangs are considered a substitute for the once irreplaceable family. Overall, Faderman and Xiong have uniquely captured the Hmong immigrant experience with poignant narratives and thoughtful conclusions. Moreover, the comparisons drawn by the author between the Hmong and Jewish migrations are both thought-provoking and perceptive. Adolescents wanting to experience an immigrant's story need only open this introspective, ground-breaking oral history. Faderman and Xiong have a winning combination in this book-emotional, descriptive real-life drama and profound historical analysis make this an ALA Best Book Nominee for Young Adults. Glossary. Photos. Maps. Biblio. VOYA Codes: 5Q 2P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
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, 1981, etc.) 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 Hmongþmost of them residents of central Californiaþappear 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 US. 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 US. 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 inthis otherwise enlightening book. These often painful stories expand on the cultural collision described by Anne Fadiman in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (1997).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807072349
Publisher:
Beacon
Publication date:
03/20/1998
Pages:
262
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.10(d)

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