The On Being Project

Kao Kalia Yang
Kao Kalia Yang

is a Hmong-American teacher, public speaker, and writer. She is the author of the award-winning book The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir and The Song Poet, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2017. She is a graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Kao Kalia lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her family.

How We Nourished Each Other When the Fridge Was Empty

by Kao Kalia Yang

Kao Kalia Yang shares a memory of the days when her family was new to America, and the ways they found sustenance from the unfamiliar lands around them.

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How We Nourished Each Other When the Fridge Was Empty

In a Family, We Raise Each Other

by Kao Kalia Yang

Kao Kalia Yang reflects on how caring for her younger siblings has taught her about “life’s possibilities and the different pathways that people can take into the road of tomorrow.”

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In a Family, We Raise Each Other

Mothering Ghost Babies

by Kao Kalia Yang

Kao Kalia Yang on miscarriage and the fragility of motherhood and its tremendous strength, how it lives beyond life and death.

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Mothering Ghost Babies

Everything Prepares Us for Something in the End

by Kao Kalia Yang

“Still, America is the place where we are hoping to cultivate life — even as death visits us in life and in dreams.”

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Everything Prepares Us for Something in the End

The Blue House That I Loved

by Kao Kalia Yang

In a plot of grass, behind a bar on Payne, right off Maryland Avenue on the east side of St. Paul there was once a blue house that I loved.

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The Blue House That I Loved

A Refugee Woman on Antidepressants

by Kao Kalia Yang

The doctors said they could not change the conditions of her life, that the only thing they could do was change the conditions of her head. No one knew what to do with her heart.

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A Refugee Woman on Antidepressants

Two Hauntings

by Kao Kalia Yang

Something dark lurks in the shadows of Kao Kalia Yang’s childhood memories. Two spectral encounters, unsettling and unexplained.

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Two Hauntings

When Relatives Die They Become Ancestors

by Kao Kalia Yang

A reflection acknowledging that the injustice of suffering can’t be wrapped up in a neat bow of closure. Instead, we the author looks to her culture’s understanding of ancestry — in the responsibility we have to the loved ones we’ve lost.

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When Relatives Die They Become Ancestors

Your Threads Have Come Undone: A Letter to a Grieving Husband

by Kao Kalia Yang

A tender, empathetic, and honest letter to an unknown friend about the anguish of grief — through a story of young love, the loss of a child, and the realization that pain marks an opening to a future where new life can take root.

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Your Threads Have Come Undone: A Letter to a Grieving Husband

My Father Is Not a Powerful Man: Lessons from My Refugee Father

by Kao Kalia Yang

Our stories hold power no matter the circumstances of our lives. A Hmong-American woman looks on her father’s modest life, and her own — through refugee camps in Thailand to their new life in the American Midwest — and reveals lessons from the powerless on our inherent dignity, even through our most vulnerable times.

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My Father Is Not a Powerful Man: Lessons from My Refugee Father