Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Kao Kalia Yang ’03 and Carleton Professor of English Nancy Cho discuss Kao Kalia’s new books, a collective memoir about refugee lives titled Somewhere in the Unknown World and another book for children called The Most Beautiful Thing.

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American writer. She holds degrees from Carleton College and Columbia University. Yang is the author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir winner of the 2009 Minnesota Book Awards in Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Readers’ Choice, a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative Nonfiction, and the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction. The book is a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read title and on the roster of the American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life Program.

Her second book, The Song Poet won the 2016 Minnesota Book Award in Creative Nonfiction Memoir, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, a PEN USA Award in Nonfiction, and the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize. The story has been commissioned as a youth opera by the Minnesota Opera and will premiere in the spring of 2021. Yang’s debut children’s book, A Map Into the World is a American Library Association Notable Book of the Year, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, winner of the Northstar Best Illustrator Award, and winner of the 2020 Minnesota Book Award in Children’s Literature.

Her co-edited collection titled What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Indigenous Women and Women of Color is a groundbreaking work that centers the poetry and prose of women whose voices have been neglected and silenced on the topic despite the fact that they experience these losses disproportionately. The book was named one of the ten best books of the fall of 2019 by the Star Tribune. Yang’s newest book, The Shared Room, just came out this spring.

Kao Kalia Yang is also a teacher and public speaker. Much of Yang’s work is inspired by the people in her life whose stories have never been part of the bookshelves of a bigger world. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, her daughter, and twin sons. Visit her online at

Nancy Cho teaches and writes on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature, Asian American literature, and contemporary multicultural drama. She also offers courses in American studies.

Questions? Contact Alumni Relations via email or 800-729-2586.