Hmong Means Free: Life in Laos and America is an extraordinary collection of the life stories of four Hmong families who were able to escape from Laos when the Communists took over the Asian country in 1975. The book is the result of the work of four Hmong students, Lee Fang, Vu Pao Tcha, Maijue Xiong, and Thek Moua, and their professor, editor Sucheng Chan, of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Each student asked immediate family members to tell the stories of their lives; Professor Chan provides a cogent introduction to history and culture of the Hmong people of Laos.
As a result of this teamwork, voice is given, for the first time in print, to many first-person accounts of Hmong who came to live in California. The tales older family members—such as Boua Neng Moua—tell about their lives back in Laos become safeguards of their memories. Most Hmong were slash-and-burn farmers living a life far removed from that of American farmers in the twentieth century. Women worked very hard in the fields and at home, and children were taught to be obedient, hardworking, and chaste until marriage.
Change came when the war in Vietnam began to spill over to Laos in the 1960’s. Many Hmong joined the American war effort and fought under General Vang Pao against their mutual Communist enemies. Thus, one of the many photographs that illustrate Hmong Means Free shows Xia Shoua Fang in his military uniform, flanked by his wife...
(The entire section is 474 words.)