I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hear Yang give a reading. Afterwards, I dug into this memoir with high expectations. I was not disappointed.
Most memoirs highlight the lives of people who are already household names, or who have reached the height of professional success in their niche. But what about those who have a gift and message worthy of a microphone but no stage? On the first page, Yang writes, “My father says that on his gravestone he wants it known that his wife and his children are his life’s work. He would love it if we could add: ‘All of Bee Yang’s children became good people.'”
Bee writes and sings poetry that would enlighten the world with the only audience interested in hearing it: his family and friends. Her father’s art transforms the author’s perceptions at a young age. She shares: “His poetry shields us from the poverty of our lives.”
As Yang’s family battles to find their place in America, Bee’s wisdom shines through, though is not always enough.
Our father said the most important things that each of us has to remember is that it should be the words and actions of those who love us, like our mother and father, brothers and sisters, that should enter our hearts and spur its beats, not those of people who are out to hurt us, out to silence and diminish us.
As a reader I found myself disappointed by how often the Yang’s faced the latter.
I write this review hopeful more will pick up this masterpiece, which inspires compassion and awareness to the realities facing marginalized populations in the United States. Read it. Yang is a natural storyteller with insight impossible to glean from someone who hasn’t walked among the Hmong.
After working for years in technology, Abby turned to writing, and in 2017 her debut novel, I Liked My Life, was published by St. Martin’s Press. She’s also a human rights advocate, and when she’s not busy watching “the comedy show that is her children,” she manages to find time for one of her favorite activities, reading. Visit Abby’s website.