Hmong American Writers’ Circle presents the Fresno Book Launch of Mai Der Vang’s “Afterland”, published by Graywolf Press
Doors open at 6:30pm
Event begins at 7:00pm.
Reception and book signing to follow.
(Note: Books will be available to purchase.)
Mai Der Vang
John W. Dodson Theatre
Bitwise | South Stadium
700 Van Ness Avenue
About Mai Der:
Mai Der Vang is the author of Afterland (Graywolf, 2017) which received the Walt Whitman Award winner from the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, New Republic, and elsewhere. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. Mai Der’s work has also been anthologized in Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora. As an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle, she is co-editor of How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. Mai Der has received residencies from Hedgebrook and is a Kundiman fellow. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, along with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing/Poetry from Columbia University. She lives in Fresno, California.
Afterland is a powerful, essential collection of poetry that recounts with devastating detail the Hmong exodus from Laos and the fate of thousands of refugees seeking asylum. Mai Der Vang is telling the story of her own family, and by doing so, she also provides an essential history of the Hmong culture’s ongoing resilience in exile. Many of these poems are written in the voices of those fleeing unbearable violence after U.S. forces recruited Hmong fighters in Laos in the Secret War against communism, only to abandon them after that war went awry. That history is little known or understood, but the three hundred thousand Hmong now living in the United States are living proof of its aftermath. With poems of extraordinary force and grace, Afterland holds an original place in American poetry and lands with a sense of humanity saved, of outrage, of a deep tradition broken by war and ocean but still intact, remembered, and lived.
From US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera:
“With a ‘sliced and boiled tongue,’ the voice drifts in and out of the ‘ash oven of a forest,’ from the shrapneled spirit meals of a Laos gone, quaked by forced wars and continuous fading echoes of the lost, Mai Der, nocturnal soul-smith, returns to that war-riddled sub-land and leaves us these ‘dispatches.’ I am astounded at how this poet accomplishes these tellings of war, of the Hmong peoples, of escape, exile, of never-leaving, of always-returning—of retracing the life-particles of the dead in various forms of disappearance and presence. In a language of ‘torn jackets’ and fruit, of insects and mothers, of humpbacks and shamans, Mai Der Vang comes back at us as the ‘carved edge of a claw.’ The mastery of image, the leap, the dislodging of our perceptions, fluid as ‘humming of rain against a woman’s bare neck.’ A major, almost impossible, groundbreaking collection.”
About the readers:
Andre Yang lives in Fresno, California. He is a founding member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC), where he actively conducts and participates in public writing workshops. He received his MFA degree from Fresno State where he was a Provost Scholar and a Philip Levine Scholar. There, he divides his time between teaching freshman composition and poetry. Andre is a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellow and has attended to the Tin House Summer Writers Workshop, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and the UCross Foundation residency. His poetry has appeared in Paj Ntaub Voice, Hyphen Magazine, Kweli: Journal, the chapbook anthology Here is a Pen (Achiote Press), and the anthology Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press).
Soul Vang’s poetry is anthologized in Tilting the Continent: Southeast Asian American Writing, How Much Earth: An Anthology of Fresno Poets, Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans. His poetry also appears in the publications; In the Grove, The Packinghouse Review, Central California Poetry Journal, and Paj Ntaub Voice. He was born in Laos, came to the U.S. as a refugee child, and has served in the U.S. Army. He was graduated with an MFA in Poetry from California State University, Fresno. He holds the distinction of being the first Hmong American to publish a full-length poetry collection with To Live Here by winning the Imaginary Friends Press poetry contest in 2014. His second collection, “Song of the Cluster Bomblet” is forthcoming from Blue Oak Press. Find him at www.soulvang.net.
Anthony Cody is a CantoMundo fellow and an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. He was born in Fresno, California with roots in both the Dust Bowl and Bracero Program. His poetry has appeared in U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971–2007 (City Lights), How Do I Begin?: A Hmong American Literary Anthology (Heyday), in which he also served as co-editor, Prairie Schooner, ToeGood Poetry Journal, Gentromancer – a collaborative cross-genre art project with artist Josue Rojas in El Tecolote. New work is forthcoming in Tinderbox Journal and TriQuarterly Review. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry at Fresno State. Find him at www.anthonycody.com.
Founded in 2004, the Hmong American Writers’ Circle organizes literary workshops to foster creative writing in the Hmong community and in the California Central Valley. Hmong-American literature is nearly non-existent in the Asian American literary canon, let alone the national landscape. With the knowledge that no definitive accounts of Hmong literature exists, many Hmong writers often write from a place of absence while struggling to create literary traditions in a culture that could face extinction.