The Crying River: the voice of the Hmong

Crying River cover

Note: I was not asked to promote this book in any way. My thoughts are my own, and I choose to share it simply because I believe it’s a story worth sharing.

What better way to start off a new editing blog than with a tribute to the first book I officially edited? The Crying River is a novella-length memoir that shares the heart of the Hmong experience through the eyes of a young girl. It reads like a novel, but the accounts of persecution, loss, and perseverance are true not only to the author’s life but also to thousands of other Hmong families. Yer J. Lo’s story of growing up in Laos and escaping to the United States is near and dear to my heart for two reasons.

First, The Crying River is the first published book that I ever edited. Ms. Lo approached me in 2011 when I was interning in writing & editing, and she asked me to edit her story of the Hmong experience after the Secret War. She is the first author that I formed a relationship with, and I was excited when I could finally hold a published, printed copy in my hands. I laughed and cried my way through the story as I copyedited the manuscript, and I still love it several years later.

Second, The Crying River tells the story of my friends, neighbors, and community. Over 25% of the Hmong people in the United States live in my metro area in Minnesota, so these are the people I work, eat, shop, talk, and go to church with on a regular basis. My best friend from high school is Hmong, and I will never forget something I learned when I was a teen. I was visiting my friend’s home when her father came into the room, looked at me, and then spoke to his daughter in Hmong. As she translated, she told me that he wanted me to know that their people were being persecuted. Over in Laos, they were being tortured and killed just for being Hmong. He left the room again without saying more; it was simply important to him that I knew and understood their suffering.

I listened, and I remembered. When I read Yer J. Lo’s manuscript years later, I cried because I finally understood. Her book showed me the wars that changed her people’s lives, the debt that America owed them, and how much loathing they have suffered. The Hmong people have always been a people without a home, and without people like Ms. Lo sharing their stories, they are at risk of becoming a people without a voice.

The Crying River is a story of pain and loss, but it is also one of faith and survival. It did more than help my editing career get off to a good start; it opened my eyes to a story that is true for so many more people than the one little girl who experienced it. If you’re in the mood for an inspiring story that represents the real-life experiences of a courageous people group, I definitely think it’s worth your time to read. You can buy it for under $10 through either Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Let me know what you think! If you’ve read other books on the Hmong experience that I should add to my library, please leave a comment below; I’ll be sure to check them out!

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