Growing up as a Hmong-American girl in a mainly Caucasian community, it was difficult to find books (particularly picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels) about the Hmong people or books featuring Hmong characters or experiences. Because of that, as a child I didn’t have an appreciation and acceptance for my culture.
When we don’t see ourselves portrayed in literature or the media, it feels like our stories don’t matter, or that they don’t exist, or that there isn’t someone going through the same things we’re going through.
For a long time, I didn’t bother with my culture. I thought that if nobody cared about it, why should I?
It wasn’t until college that I realized the importance of portraying diversity in books. I took a children’s literature class and learned that a good book can aide a child’s growth, and that books can provide answers to some of our issues and questions in life. Good books connect with our emotions and show the world in a way which we may never have imagined. When you portray diversity in literature, you have an ability to empower an individual, and when you empower someone you’re telling them that their voices matter. You’re showing them they are capable of doing things just like everyone else.
And so, I embarked on a mission to search for books that featured Hmong characters or Hmong-related subject matters. Over the years, I’ve compiled a list of published and self-published books with these qualities.
I hope that my list will continue to grow as I am certain there are authors, illustrators, publishers, and readers who feel it is important to have books for all children. I hope that children of the future will be able to open books and see themselves as heroes and learn to appreciate and accept who they are.
Kaum Tus Me Nyuam Ntses by Yee Lee
Ua Si, Ua Si by Mykou Thao | illustrated by Stephanie Ritter
Kuv Ua Tau by Mykou Thao | illustrated by Stephanie Ritter
Nyob Zoo by Pang Khang | illustrated by Mary Dominique Oliverio
Nine-In-One, Grr! Grr! by Blia Xiong, Cathy Spagnoli | illustrated by Nancy Hom
Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella by Dr. Jewell Coburn | illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien
Ka’s Garden (Kab Lub Vaj): A Bilingual Children’s Book by Maggie Lee McHugh and Bee Lo | illustrated by Vong Lao
The Whispering Cloth : A Refugee’s Story by Pegi Deitz Shea | illustrated by Anita Riggio | stitched by You Yang
Orphan Boy the Farmer by Cha Yang | illustrated by Kao Lee Thao
Zaj Lus: A Hmong Children’s Story Collection by D.C. Everest Oral History Project
The Gift : The Hmong New Year by Ia Xiong | illustrated by Gou Run-Lin
The Forbidden Treasure by See Lor | illustrated by Kao Lee Thao
The Magic Stone by See Lor | illustrated by Shallyn Blair
The Greedy Couple by See Lor | illustrated by Duachaka Her
The Family that I Love/Tsev Neeg Uas Kuv Hlub by See Lor | illustrated by Duachaka Her
Clothes for See by Champa Lo
The Tiger in the Village by Pakou Vang
Once Upon a Time in a Faraway Land by Duachaka Her
Leej Twg Hlub Koj? (Who Loves You?) by Stephanie Xiong | illustrated by Vam Moua
Tougi the Toad by Gaonou Thao | illustrated by Sally Johnson
Superheroes (Phab Ej) by Pang Xiong | illustrated by Reji Maindrid
Shoua and The Northern Lights Dragon by Ka Vang
Pa Lia’s First Day by Michelle Edwards
My Country: My Lee Comes to America by Elmira K. Beyer