Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American author, filmmaker, public speaker, and natural storyteller. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (Coffee House Press, 2008) is the first memoir written by a Hmong-American to be published with national distribution. Driven to tell her family's story—and the story of the Hmong people—Yang wrote it as a "love letter" to her grandmother whose spirit held her family together through their imprisonment in Laos, their harrowing escape across the Mekong River and into a refugee camp in Thailand, their immigration to Minnesota when Yang was only six years old, and their transition to a hard life in America. "Yang has performed an important service in bringing readers the stories of a people whose history has been shamefully neglected," writes Kirkus. "Yang tells her family's story with grace; she narrates their struggles, beautifully weaving in Hmong folklore and culture. By the end of this moving, unforgettable book, when Yang describes the death of her beloved grandmother, readers will delight at how intimately they have become part of this formerly ... [unfamiliar] culture" (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
The practice of assigning incoming students “common reading”—asking them to read the same book before they arrive on campus—has gained popularity in recent years as colleges and universities have sought new ways to improve the first-year experience.