The Song Poet

The Song Poet

A Memoir of My Father

Book - 2016
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"From the author of The Latehomecomer, a powerful memoir of her father, a Hmong song poet who sacrificed his gift for his children's future in America. In the Hmong tradition, the song poet recounts the story of his people, their history and tragedies, joys and losses; extemporizing or drawing on folk tales, he keeps the past alive, invokes the spirits and the homeland, and records courtships, births, weddings, and wishes. Following her award-winning book 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 American's Secret War. Bee lost his father as a young boy and keenly felt his orphanhood. He would wander from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other, whispering the words to himself at night until, one day, a song was born. Bee sings the life of his people through the war-torn jungle and a Thai refugee camp. But the songs fall away in the cold, bitter world of a Minneapolis housing project and on the factory floor until, with the death of Bee's mother, the songs leave him for good. But before they do, Bee, with his poetry, has polished a life of poverty for his children, burnished their grim reality so that they might shine. Written with the exquisite beauty for which Kao Kalia Yang is renowned, The Song Poet is a love story--of a daughter for her father, a father for his children, a people for their land, their traditions, and all that they have lost"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2016
ISBN: 9781627794947
Characteristics: xi, 271 pages ; 22 cm
Call Number: B YANG, B


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Mar 31, 2020

Award-winning Minnesota writer Yang tells the story of her father—a song poet in the Hmong tradition—from his childhood in the mountains of Laos to his young family’s experiences in a Thai refugee camp and as refugees in Minnesota.

His own dreams deferred or to be lived by his children, Yang’s father Bee’s humanity and talents are evoked beautifully in her poetic prose. Structured like the cassette her father made of his stories, the track called ‘Love Song’ is some of the most beautiful writing ever read. I recommend her recently published children’s book, 'A Map Into the World,' another Minnesota Book Award Finalist.

Apr 05, 2017

* As with her previous book, The Latehomecomer, Yang again gives us a memoir that tells not just her story but the story of her family. This time, the focus is on her father. As someone who comes from a large, close-knit extended family, I appreciate the way she shows how relatives' lives intertwine and affect each other.

* The book is a series of interesting, memorable, relatable stories. They get you thinking about questions like: What does it mean to lose a parent? To be a parent? To live as an outcast?

* It's always great to hear a local writer telling Minnesota stories. Yang so accurately describes 1980's Twin Cities childhood. Many of the details match up with my own childhood memories, whether she's writing about shopping trips at K-mart or fishing with her family. The parts of the story that take place in Laos and Thailand are no less relatable, because she fills in all the details and shows the humanity in every situation.

* Sadly, she also has a lot of stories to tell about racism that her family has faced in Minnesota--not just in the 1980's, but in the present day. She doesn't preach; she just states the facts. But I get the message loud and clear: we need to be more aware of the discrimination that happens in our state, and we need to do more about it.


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