In the tumultuous years during and after the Vietnam War, thousands of ethnic Lao fled Southeast Asia to avoid persecution, imprisonment and even death. Many of these refugees eventually settled in the Upper Midwest, in and around Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Decades later, the older generation of Lao Americans continues to navigate the trauma of the region-wide conflict that ripped them from their homeland thousands of miles away. Their wounds have yet to scab.
Meanwhile, every generation of Lao still grapples with misrepresentation – or no representation at all – in popular and historical narratives, school curriculums, community conversations, and the arts. As a trans-generational narrative, “When Everything Was Everything” signifies a turning point for Lao American refugee stories.
Artfully stitched together from the author’s own imaginings, reimaginings and memories as a child raised on food stamps and forced into ESL classes while continuously being shuttled from one public housing address to the next, this remarkable picture book is a love letter to survivors that is sure to resonate with readers of all ages.