D.C. Everest students help build children's book of Hmong legends

Thursday, July 2, 2009

By Amy Ryan • For the Wausau Daily Herald • June 27, 2009

WESTON -- Students involved with D.C. Everest's oral history projects have covered a lot about Hmong culture, from war to immigration to life in the United States. Now, the students are taking a more fanciful look at Hmong culture with a children's book of Hmong legends.

"We're breaking new ground," said Oral History Project coordinator Paul Aleckson. "We want to do something for kids who are reading, but don't know the Hmong heritage."

Students working on the book selected stories from a published collection and tales passed down through their family members.

"Some of the stories we had heard before, but a lot were new to us," said junior Anna Thor, 16, one of the students working on the book.

Thor's family members and elders were more than happy to help.

"They're really supportive. They want to keep our culture alive," said Anna's sister, Yer Thor, 15, who also is working on the book.

The students were surprised to hear fables that were very similar to American tales, with a Hmong twist.

"We have a Cinderella story, and it has a dad and stepmother and stepsisters -- which is very common in the Hmong culture -- but instead of a ball, it was the Hmong New Year and she didn't wear a glass slipper," Anna said.

Students hope these stories will help foster understanding of the Hmong culture.

"I hope people learn more about our culture," Yer, 15, said. "I like that even though our cultures are different, there are things that are similar."

Hmong leaders are glad the students are tackling the project and others like it.

"The students and teachers who have been working diligently on the project should be applauded for their efforts," said Peter Vang, executive director of the Hmong Association. "Their work will help future generations to better understand why the Hmong came to Marathon County and Wisconsin."

Aleckson hopes to publish the book in May, but the timing of publication hinges upon finances.

"These books cost quite a bit to publish; sometimes it can run about $10,000," he said. "We do make some money from the sale of the books, but we'll have to see what happens."


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