Video: Author Kao Kalia Yang Discusses A Map into the World

In her picture book debut, Kao Kalia Yang (author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir and The Song Poet) tells the heartfelt story of a young Hmong girl seeking beauty and connection in a busy world, lushly illustrated by Seo Kim.

In the video above, she shares some of the history of Hmong story cloths, how A Map into the World was inspired by a true story, and a little more background of Hmong and her personal history.

“A young Hmong American girl shares the small things of wonder that make up her world. When Paj Ntaub moves into a new green house with big windows with her family, the garden grows with ‘tomatoes, green beans, and a watermelon as round as my mother’s belly.’ Soon, the green house becomes their house. Paj Ntaub helps ‘Tais Tais hang the special story cloth about how the Hmong got to America.’ She exchanges waves with her neighbors Bob and Ruth, an elderly white couple even older than Tais Tais. And changing seasons usher in life and death. In gentle prose, Yang’s picture-book debut explores nature, community, and connection. Twin brothers are born amid the summer bounty in the garden. On a snowy, cold morning, loss arrives, and bare gingko trees ‘[reach] for the sky with their thin fingers’ against the new emptiness of the house across the street. When the world becomes green again, Paj Ntaub draws together these connections in a neighborly gesture of comfort. Using digital graphite, pastels, watercolor, and scanned handmade textures, Kim brings detailed dimension to the green house and the world around it. Alternating perspectives capture the expansiveness of the outside as well as the intimacy of Paj Ntaub’s observations. Contemplative, curious, and kind.“―starred, Kirkus Reviews

“Yang (The Song Poet for adults), a Hmong writer making her picture book debut, offers a story about a girl who notices things. Young Paj Ntaub (both a girl’s name and a term that nods to needlework tellings of Hmong experiences) moves with her family to a green house and helps to hang their story cloth ‘about how the Hmong got to America’ on the wall. When her twin baby brothers cry too loudly, her father takes her outside, where they wave to their elderly neighbors, Bob and Ruth. In lovingly detailed spreads, Kim, making her U.S. debut, draws all the things that Paj Ntaub sees: gingko leaves (‘yellow like apricots’), winter snow, a worm. When Ruth dies in the winter, and Paj Ntaub notices Bob grieving come spring, she chalks a wealth of previously regarded details on his driveway―’a map into the world,’ she explains. Though age separates them, Paj Ntaub’s accounting of everyday details reaches Bob―and gives voice to the child’s experience, too. A distinctive story that weaves together threads of family life, community and culture, the natural world, and the power of stories.“―starred, Publishers Weekly

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