There was loneliness in us because all our friends and relatives were not here with us.: Becoming Minnesotan

Kim Yang, c. 2000.
  • Name - Kim Yang
  • Age at interview - 31
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Refugee
  • Date of Interview - 12.01.1999
  • Hmong shopping at Country Store, Lexington and University, St. Paul, 1981-1982.
    Yang family, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1970s.  Photo courtesy Naly Yang.


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    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Assimilation: Does a person have to give up part of his/her culture to become more American?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    When the Americans withdrew from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, the Hmong people were in great danger.  During the war the Hmong had fought with the Americans, so the Vietnamese Communists and Communist Pathet Lao were sure to go after them as punishment.  Many Hmong fled to Thailand where they lived in refugee camps.  Knowing that they could not go back to their homeland, a large number of them sought refugee visas to come to the U.S. 

    There have been four major waves of Hmong resettlement in the U.S. between 1975 and today.  If selected, each family would be placed in a specific place in the U.S. where they had a sponsor to accept them and help them find jobs, housing, and other services to get settled. At first families were placed in isolated places, but the program gradually evolved so that families could be placed in urban areas where there were other Hmong families nearby and the newcomers did not feel so alone.  

    To learn more about Hmong history and culture, visit our Hmong Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Kim Yang 10
    1:33 Minutes | 1.49Mb


    Note: Original interview was conducted in Hmong.  Excerpt is read in English by MayKao Hang.

    Narrator: Kim Yang (KY)

    Interviewer: Mai Neng Moua (MNM)

    MNM:  After you came to this country, what is the one thing that was the easiest and quickest for you to learn?

    KY:  After we came to this country, one of the things that was easy was going to school. Going to school and helping my parents to baby-sit were some of the things that were easy. This is because after I came back from school, my parents had to go to school at night so I had to help them by baby-sitting.

    But some of the hardest things for us were that… There was depression in all of us, there was loneliness in us because all our friends and relatives were not here with us and we were living alone with the Americans in the apartment. They didn’t like us; they said bad words and spit at us. They treated us very bad. There was lots of loneliness among the older folks and they didn’t want to stay in this country. In fact, my parents were talking that they wanted to go back because they don’t speak any English, don’t have any friends, don’t know where to go, and they know how to read or write so it was very hard for my parents and the older folks.

    MNM:  When you got to this country, what state did your family reside in?

    KY:  We first came to St. Paul, Minnesota then about a month later we moved into Minneapolis.

    MNM:  Didn’t you have any friends or relatives around? Why was there lots of loneliness among your parents?

    KY:  Yes, we did. But we were not living close to each other and we did not know how to drive so it was very hard for us to see each other. It was very hard to go to the store because there was no one there to take you to the store to buy food to eat. This is why they were very lonely.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A state of mind producing serious, long-term unhappiness or inability to visualize a happy future.


    Verb:  To live (somewhere).  (resides, residing, resided)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 478