A Very Short Book Excerpt

Our father loved words. He believed in them. He was hurt when people didn’t live up to them, and his words for us and our futures were big ones. As much as we loved his words, we were scared of them. What if we failed to become doctors and lawyers? What if we didn’t even graduate from high school? Some of our cousins struggled to pass the competency tests for the high school diploma. It took many of them numerous tries. . . . High school graduation was a hard accomplishment. When a Hmong family had a high school graduate, the elders would often refer proudly to the graduate as someone who had “completed” his or her education. [My sister] Dawb and I were worried about our own abilities to complete not only high school but college. We had no idea what graduate school was then. Few Hmong families did. When our father dreamed of us becoming doctors and lawyers, we wished he were less talkative.

The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father, by Kao Kalia Yang ’03, Metropolitan Books, 2016

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