With humor and sensitivity, poet, playwright, and writer Ka Vang examines and critiques what it means to be “a good Hmong girl” in America today.
Hmong American studies is becoming an important and respected area of research within the field of Asian American studies, and many of the general public have embraced new literature (novels, collections, plays, and poetry) by Hmong Americans. This essay, “The Good Hmong Girl Eats Raw Laab,” first appeared in the recent anthology Hmong and American: From Refugees to Citizens, an accessible, groundbreaking, up-to-date collection of writing by scholars, educators, artists, and community activists.
In this provocative essay, poet, playwright, and writer Ka Vang examines the social and cultural implications of “a good Hmong girl” by addressing these issues: “What does it mean to be a good Hmong girl? Who defines the good Hmong girl? Who practices it and enforces the rules? What are the rewards and consequences for the Hmong girl and her family if she is not a good Hmong girl? Would Hmong culture be diminished if there were no more good Hmong girls left?”
Ka Vang immigrated to the United States from Laos when she was just five years old. She attended the University of Minnesota and was a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune. She also wrote for the Minnesota Women’s Press. She is the recipient of the Asian American Renaissance/Jerome Foundation Artist Career Development grant and Minnesota State Art Board Artist Fellowship.
Her work is included in three MHS Press books, Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans, Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers and Hmong and American, where this piece first appeared. (All three of these titles are also available as e-books.)