Hmong American Life Stories

Mary Louise Buley-Meissner, Associate Professor

Course: ENGLISH 192, SEM 011
Class Number: 50892
Credits: 3 HU
Time: TR 12:30 – 1:45 PM
Place: CRT 321

Course Description:

This seminar emphasizes active learning through extensive reading, collaborative class work and individual research projects as we look into the dynamic development of Hmong American identities from the 1970s until now. Students will read an essay collection exploring identity, family and community in contemporary Hmong American life; a recent collection of prose and poetry by young Hmong Americans; and a highly acclaimed Hmong American family biography. These texts illuminate not only individual lives, but also the historical and cultural circumstances shaping people’s identities, communities, and sustaining values.

Work Involved:

Through reading, writing and informed discussion, we will address many challenging questions. For example, how differently do first-, second- and third-generation Hmong Americans view the importance of traditional values and the opportunities offered by this country for success and happiness? Across generations, in what ways are Hmong Americans today involved in both cultural continuity and change? More specifically, how are young people developing bicultural identities as they fulfill family obligations and pursue their individual aspirations? Taking a literary approach to investigating such questions, we will consider the significance of contemporary Hmong American narratives in historical and cultural contexts. Documentary films and guest speakers will provide additional background information. Overall, this seminar will emphasize active learning through discussion informed by extensive reading, individual research projects, and class inquiry into the dynamic development of Hmong American identity from the 1970s until now. The basic grading structure includes class participation – 20%, three take-home essay exams – 60%; and an individual (or small group) research project to be presented to the class – 20%.


Grandmother's Path, Grandfather's Way by Lue Vang and Judy Lewis; The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang; Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans, edited by Mai Neng Moua; and The Rowman & Littlefield Guide to Writing with Sources, 3rd ed.

About the Instructor:

Mary Louise Buley-Meissner, Professor of English, enjoys working with students from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. She has taught in China, Japan and Germany, and plans to teach in India. With Vincent Her, she has co-edited "Hmong and American: From Refugees to Citizens" (2012), an essay collection addressing contemporary Hmong American lives.