Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American author, film-maker, and teacher; she is also a co-founder of ‘Words Wanted,’ a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. Her work is passionate and eloquent as she seeks to deepen the understanding of the human condition in order to garner more compassion in the world.
Kalia was born in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in 1980. She and her family came to Minnesota as refugees in the summer of 1987, and her first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, reflects upon this move. It is a first-hand account of the journey that many Hmong had to make from place to place in order to find ‘home.’ A review by Publishers Weekly praises Kalia, “Yang tells her family’s story with grace; she narrates their struggles, beautifully weaving in Hmong folklore and culture.” The Latehomecomer was the winner of two Minnesota Book Awards, a finalist for the PEN USA Award, earned a NEA Big Read title, and is the best selling book in Coffee House Press history. It is the first Hmong-authored book to gain national distribution from a literary press.
Her memoir, The Song Poet: A Memoir of my Father, was a finalist for the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, and the PEN USA Award. Jane Hamilton-Merritt proclaims that Kalia’s writing “allows us to hear the whispered sorrows and hopes of those transplanted onto foreign soil among strangers.” In the fall of 2019, Kalia will debut her first children’s book, A Map Into the World, as well as a ground-breaking collection titled What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Native Women and Women of Color.
When she’s not in front of an audience inspiring social change and awareness, Kalia raises twin sons that keep her and her husband busy at their home in Minneapolis.