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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 immigration as a necessity rather than a choice. The introduction characterized the Hmong as 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 perspectives 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.

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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, it is hard for me to become wealthy (75).” In the face of racism, language, and cultural assimilation barriers, Laotian immigrants (again much like Vietnamese and other Asian immigrants), created communities of Laotians who could support each other with advice, financial aid, and information while encouraging education to their children as a means of upward mobility. Thus, their children became a measure of success, and their acclimation to American society essential to the future of Asian America.

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Hmong Means Free Life in Laos and America. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved July 31, 2021, from