Missoula and the Hmong

by Jay Stevens

New West’s Jessica Mayrer wrote a profile of Chou Moua, a Hmong farmer and lumber mill worker who’s often seen at the Farmer’s Market. It’s a decent, if shallow, story about a Missoulian who comes from a people who are not only fascinating, but integral to the city.

You may remember I touched on the Hmong in a post about cultural “bartering,” a skill we Americans generally lack, and one of the reasons the Iraq War was doomed before it started.

But the point of this post is to urge everybody out there interested in the Hmong – or who live and work in Missoula – to read Anne Fadiman’s brilliant book about Hmong in California, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.” I’ve rarely read a book that so well digs into the psyche of peoples – both Hmong and Americans.

  1. I’m a member of the Missoula Public Library’s Third Thursday Book Club, and we read The Spirit Catches You nearly two years ago. As I remember, everyone loved it and the subsequent discussion went past our usual meeting time. It really made all of us see the Hmong vendors at our farmers’ market in a totally different light. Until Fadiman’s book, I knew nothing about the history of their presence in the United States, let alone Missoula. Thanks to Fadiman, I’m aware of the fact that our country owes the Hmong a huge debt for their help in the Vietnam War, not unlike that we’ll owe Iraqis for trashing their country in search of…oil? Revenge? Halliburton profits?

    Anywho, great book and great produce each Saturday morning.

  1. 1 Thursday Blog-A-Round (07-12-2007) « Association of Montana Bloggers

    […] 4 & 20 Blackbirds – Jay Stevens gives a multicultural nod to the Hmong. […]

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