Kao Kalia Yang

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American writer. Born in the refugee camps of Thailand to a family that escaped the genocide of the Secret War in Laos, she came to America at the age six. Yang holds degrees from Carleton College and Columbia University. She is the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir winner of the 2009 Minnesota Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Readers’ Choice, a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction. The book is a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read title and on the roster of the American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life Program. Her second book, The Song Poet won the 2016 Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction Memoir, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, a PEN USA Award in Nonfiction and the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize. The book is the first Hmong story adapted into an opera by the Minnesota Opera and will premiere in the spring of 2021. Yang debuted her first children’s book, A Map Into the World (Carolrhoda Books) and a co-edited collection titled What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Indigenous Women and Women of Color (University of MN Press) in the fall of 2019. In the spring of 2020, her second children’s book The Shared Room (University of MN Press) and third work of creative nonfiction, a collective memoire about refugee lives, Somewhere in the Unknown World (Metropolitan Books), will be published. In October 2020, she will release The Most Beautiful Thing (Carolrhoda Books). Kao Kalia Yang is also a teacher and a public speaker.

Interview

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The Little Prince

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“All grown-ups were once children . . . but only few of them remember it.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

Louise Erdrich, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Toni Morrison

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

I came from a people that had never had the opportunity to write their stories down.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

Yes! A writer becomes because she keeps on writing, period.