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Hmong Means Free Life in Laos and America

Uploaded by mfields on Mar 28, 2004

Hmong Means Free: Life in Laos and America

Hmong Means Free uses the unedited life stories of several Hmong refugees from different age groups as told by themselves to offer an unbiased look at the struggles of Laotian immigrants. The inclusion of the entire life story serves to put their immigration into context, describing the immigration as a necessity rather than a choice. The introduction characterized the Hmong as a peaceful people who were inadvertently caught in a war that they were neither responsible for, nor interested in. The book’s use of personal accounts also provides a look at the diverse backgrounds of Laotian immigrants and the accounts of Hmong life in both Laos and America has a humanizing effect on the perception of Asian immigrants in general. It successfully allowed Laotian refugees to present their perspective and feelings on their immigration and goals in America, refuting the stereotypical views of leeching and inhuman refugees held by many in America at the time of their arrival.

It is interesting that most of the challenges faced by the Laotian immigrants in America were very similar to those challenges described by Nazli Kibria in Family Tightrope. For example, both texts suggest that learning English and becoming familiar with American customs allows Asian immigrant children to assimilate easier into American culture and feel more accepted. Ironically, however, even though education is highly valued by Asian immigrants, the educational system serves to contradict much of parental teachings and erodes the Asian identity they wish to maintain. As Xang Mao Xiong says “The children of today have no respect for their elders and do not fear their parents. Americans do not understand our culture, and we do not understand theirs (101).” These similarities suggest that any immigrant is likely to face the same type of problems in America – racism, language-barriers, difficulty in cultural assimilation, the development of generation gaps, and employment for economic survival.

For Asian immigrants in particular, it appears the methods for combating these difficulties are also similar. Laotian refugees such as Jou Yee Xiong felt an intense commitment to others back in the homeland. In Laos, and later in America, the Laotian refugees worked and lived together to establish an economic safety net. As one of the Xiong family said “We live like poor people but are happy and do not envy others…Since I have so many grandsons, relatives, and friends,...

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Uploaded by:   mfields

Date:   03/28/2004

Category:   Immigration

Length:   2 pages (476 words)

Views:   12700

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