Southeast Asian American Life Stories (Full)

Mary Louise Buley-Meissner, Associate Professor

Course: ENGLISH 192, SEM 008
Class Number: 38709
Credits: 3 HU
Time: TR 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM
Place: HLT G84

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:

An enthusiastic advocate of cross-cultural education and travel, Mary Louise Buley-Meissner has enjoyed working with students in China, Japan and Germany and would like to work with students in Southeast Asia and India. At UWM, she has been involved in Hmong and Hmong American studies for fifteen years; her courses on Hmong American literature and life stories have been among the first in the US to integrate Hmong American studies into higher education. With Vincent K. Her, she is co-editing Choosing to Be Hmong and American: Re-envisioning Identity, Community and Culture in Modern Society, the first interdisciplinary essay collection to address contemporary Hmong American identity formation and cultural development.