32 Books in 32 Days – Countdown Starts Tomorrow

If you missed it, you missed another good party

The Readers’ Choice event at The Loft on Friday night was an unqualified success.  With more than 80 people in attendance, the Target Performance Hall on the second floor of Open Book was comfortably full as each of the 13 finalists who were able to attend spoke about their book or gave a short reading. The program was followed by an entertaining reception featuring complimentary hors d’oeuvres, wine and refreshments. Many guests purchased books at the event and engaged the authors in conversation as they signed their copies. Designed as an opportunity for the finalist authors to make the case for why they should get your vote for the Readers’ Choice Award, the event was cosponsored by the award sponsor, Pioneer Press and TwinCities.com, with the Loft and The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library.  Voting for the Readers’ Choice Award continues through March at TwinCities.com.

Starting tomorrow, we’ll begin counting down the days to the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards by randomly selecting one of the finalist books each day to highlight.  We’ll include quotes from the authors, a synopsis, quick takes from MNBA judges and excerpts of reviews by others in the local community and larger literary world.  But don’t look only for 32 Books in 32 Days.  We also plan to use this forum to shine a light on previous MNBA winners and finalists who are still writing and working, showing the world what a rich literary legacy we are privileged to share in Minnesota.

From the “Hot Reads on a Cold Winter Evening” blogspot:  

2008 Winner: Memoir & Creative Nonfiction and Readers’ Choice – The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang

In this memoir, Kao Kalia Yang tells the exodus of her paternal grandmother and her extended family from their home in Laos to the United States. Yang’s story begins in the jungle of Laos during the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The family flees through the jungle, crosses the dangerous Mekong River, and arrives in Thailand to escape the imminent threat of death by soldiers who intend to kill the Hmong who supported the United States during the “Secret War.” The family spends over six years in Thailand’s Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, during which time the author was born. Her family decides to immigrate to the United State, first moving to a transition camp, where they learn English and go to school, before flying to the United States to settle in California and Minnesota in 1987. The second half of Yang’s account describes her experiences in America. The author writes about the separation of her extended family, her struggle to find her own voice in English, and the challenges that face her immigrant family as they adapt to their new lives in America. Although the adults feel fortunate to be in America, Yang describes the substandard housing, the menial jobs, and the education struggles her family endures. Yang’s recollections end with stories told by her grandmother and her own reflections as she graduates from college and looks forward to sharing not just her family’s, but also her people’s experience, through the words of this book.

The Hmong American experience described in this first-person account by author Kao Kalia Yang can not be replicated by any secondary source or textbook to show the Hmong’s rightful place in the history of the United States. Readers come to feel the fear as the family hides in the jungle from those who would like to eradicate them for supporting the U.S. They also share the heartbreak of this family, separated from one another at many points along the journey. They see in the determination of the grandmother to keep her large family intact. The real settings of the jungle, the refugee camp, the transition camp, and Minneapolis are integral in reflecting the long journey of the family to find a place to call “home.”

Kao Kalia Yang Interview

For those of you who have enjoyed or are currently reading last year’s Minnesota Book Award-winning The Latehomecomer, (Memoir and Creative Nonfiction; Readers’ Choice) you may be interested to hear what the author has to say about her grandmother and about learning to write.



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