Hmong American Identity in Literature Summary


Most of the Hmong peoples of Asia live in what is now the northern part of Vietnam. Indigenous to the area for centuries, the Hmong helped to fight their Japanese conquerors and the French when they attempted to colonize Vietnam. When the Americans engaged in their lengthy and disastrous war of the 1960’s and 1970’s, many Hmong farmers were recruited by agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the American Ranger Army forces to fight for the Americans. The Hmong were so situated that their allegiance was seen to be strategic in importance, although the Hmong people were all farmers and fairly primitive in their standard of living. The Hmong were largely known for their unorthodox but successful cultivation processes, usually farming in rows on steep, hilly land that was not particularly fertile. By strapping their plows around their necks, they were able through agility and strength to develop crops in areas that seemed nonfarmable.

Americans recognized that many, perhaps all, Hmong would be treated badly by the North Vietnamese, the enemy, who was winning. American troops and others helped Hmong move to South Vietnam and ultimately to ships and airplanes headed for the United States. Many Hmong did not make the trip for diverse reasons, and although many died under the new rule in Vietnam, the Hmong still exist as a people in Southeast Asia.

Once in the United States (the largest populations settled in California, Colorado, and...

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Suggested Readings

Quincy, Keith. Hmong: History of a People. Cheney, Wash: EWUP, 1995.

Smalley, William Allen. Mother of Writing: The Origin and Development of a Hmong Messianic Script. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.