Friday – March 26, 2013.
At first glance, the charming two-story building is no different from the residential homes surrounding it. Since 2010, 343 Michigan St. has been home to the Hmong Archives, the only non-profit archives dedicated to Hmong culture in the United States. Upon entering, fellow APALA member and former Hmong Archives volunteer and Minnesota-native Mee Xiong and I were greeted warmly by Kou Xiong, a long-time volunteer of the Archives who gave us a tour.
Hmong Archives was founded in 1999 by Yuepheng Xiong of Hmong Arts, Books and Crafts (or Hmong ABC) with the support of Twin Cities Hmong professionals, Minnesota State Representative Steve Trimble, and retired Minnesota Historical Society librarian, Marlin Heise. Its purpose is to research, collect, preserve, interpret and disseminate materials in all formats about or by Hmong people. From 1999 to 2010, the Archives moved to six different locations due to space constraints and funding. Currently, with a growing collection of over 153,000 items, the Archives is now housed at the home of its curator, Mr. Heise. The Archives relies primarily on private donations and grants for its daily operations. It is completely run by volunteers.
Mr. Heise, who was doing research and visiting Hmong students in Vientiane, Laos, was unavailable at the time of our visit. He is primarily responsible for the Archives’ growing acquisitions, as well as conducting outreach and organizing volunteers. Mr. Heise has been actively engaged with the Hmong community and interested in collecting Hmong artifacts since the early 1980s. Mr. Heise’s efforts began with mentoring two young Hmong interns at the Minnesota Historical Society, which grew into developing relationships with the larger community. My gracious tour guide Mr. Xiong is also an expert of the Archives collections himself. He started as an intern over ten years ago and has remained on staff ever since.
Hmong Archive is special. There is no security front desk asking visitors to identify themselves and lock their belongings away. It is very much as cozy and welcoming as it appears from the building’s exterior. Every part of the house’s interior is packed with cabinets and shelves of documents, audio cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, videotapes, and books in Hmong and other languages.
The Archives contains 13 collections: Archival Boxes, Audio, Books, Cards, Files, Maps, Newspapers, Objects, Periodicals, Photographs, Posters, Videos, and Works of Art. Starting with the first floor, Mr. Xiong showed us Hmong cassette tapes in a cabinet and books stored in floor-to-ceiling shelves. The second floor was also filled with shelves of materials. Mr. Xiong explained the wide variety of VHS and DVD movies made by or about Hmong, including “Gran Torino.” A film buff, Mr. Xiong asserted that the movie collection is a great and exciting way for Archive users to learn about the progression of contemporary Hmong American film production.
Also in the same room on the second floor, were shelves of CDs of traditional and popul ar Hmong music. Mr. Xiong showed us photocopied articles and photographs of Hmong refugees in Thai camps after the Secret War. These were also available on the second floor of the Archive. Lastly, Mr. Xiong took out traditional Hmong story cloths which are stored in archival boxes. Taking one colorful story cloth after another, he tells me the meaning of patterns, narrative and animal symbolism according to Hmong folklore. Many of these can be viewed online at Hmong Embroidery, which was a collaborative web project between the Archives and Hmong Cultural Center.
The collections go beyond just your typical books and multimedia items. The Archives possesses unique cultural items such as a 1940s Luang Prabang-style black powder rifle which is over 6 feet long. Mr. Heise enjoys allowing college visitors to handle the weapon and ask them to envision using one for hunting in the mountains of Laos. Heise also describes another special item, a Thai-made aluminum rice pot, which to him represents the Hmong experience.
“To me, its shape is beautiful, but what are the stories it could tell about cooking fires in Long Cheng, Laos, or Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand, or resettlement in St. Paul? If only it could talk!,” says Heise.
A favorite item for Hmong elders who visit the Archives is the khib or A-frame used for loading firewood or grass. According to Heise, many of these visitors are reminded of fieldwork they have done in their homelands and wish to wear them when they see it. Besides story cloths, other unique Hmong handmade items include wooden carved airplanes by 10-year-old Nou Xiong from Nong Phue village, Xieng Khuang, Laos. Heise added these to the aeronautical collections at the Archives.
Researchers from around the world visit and contact Hmong Archives, from Austria to China. Mr. Heise and the Archives volunteers assist with research questions dealing with topics such as Hmong jaw harps or ncas, the Secret War in Laos and discovering the Hmong word for “gay.” With their collective knowledge of the Norwegian, Danish, German, Hmong, Lao, Thai and Chinese languages, the staff translate materials into English so that they are more accessible to users. The Archives has loaned objects to a Chicago museum and to Twin Cities organizations.
As for the future of Hmong Archives, Heise states, “Hopefully we will move into a large, archivally and environmentally friendly building in a Hmong neighborhood. This building should accommodate several Hmong nonprofits that will mutually benefit us by co-location.”
For now, the Archives has plenty of projects to keep its staff busy, such as cataloging all their items and making them available online. They also hope to continue collaborative projects with community partners as they did with Hmong Cultural Center on the HmongEmbroidery.org project.
Make a visit to the Hmong Archives:
343 Michigan Street
Saint Paul, MN 55102
Business Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10am – 6pm. Visitors may come during business hours or by appointment.
Depression became a normal part of my everyday vocabulary when I was twelve. I remember Newsweek did a cover story on Prozac back then. Upon reading the article, so many things began to make sense. At some point during elementary school, I suddenly became very shy. It came to such a state that simply greeting other kids was agonizing. Saying hello and good-bye to my neighbor’s daughter on the short walk to and from the school bus stop was painful. Before this time, my mother used to say I was outgoing and tiao pi, or mischievous. This made my grandfather remark that it was hard to believe I was a girl because I acted so much like my Uncle James, whom I adored, when he was young.
I don’t know what caused me to become so reticent and tongue-tied in public. This crippling shyness remained with me throughout elementary school, leaving me isolated and silent. It was not uncommon for me to go days without speaking more than a few words. Perhaps because little Asian girls were (and are still) expected to be shy, my silence was not considered a problem by anyone. I didn’t cause any “trouble.” And yet, a part of me knew that whatever it was that was holding me back wasn’t because I was Asian. I saw other Asian kids, including my sister, who had no problems talking and laughing in public, who weren’t afraid to go outside, who acted like normal people. This made me wonder what was wrong with me and why I couldn’t change. I developed suicidal ideation, although I didn’t know that was what it was called then. I became convinced that my life was hopeless.
Learning about depression made me realize that what I was experiencing had a name and that it was a condition that affected many people, not just me. There was help available through medication and counseling. This was further enforced in my mind when I went to college and had many friends and classmates who were diagnosed with depression and other mood disorders. They had received treatment at the campus health center. In fact, it was harder to know someone who wasn’t on anti-depressants than to know someone who was. Even though I was in a relatively safe environment that did not stigmatize mental illness, it was not until I had my own health insurance that I was able to get the treatment that I needed. When I first tried to broach this topic with my parents, they reacted with anger, disbelief, and ultimately, denial. To my parents, depression was not something that existed and anti-depressants were dangerous to take. I, too, harbored fears about going on medication that had so many side effects (really, if you look at the list of side effects, you wonder how in the world this is supposed to make you better). I was also concerned that the medication would “change” me, that I would be somehow cheating by not suffering enough. However, as one therapist pointed out, taking medication isn’t “cheating” or getting an “unfair advantage” — it just tries to help you be at the same level with others.
Although I have no wish to give to Big Pharma for the rest of my life, for now, I’ve come to accept that my new normal is to be on medication, possibly for a long time, and to see a therapist on a regular basis. Perhaps I’m fortunate that I’m one of the ones who have responded positively to medication, despite my lingering skepticism about the psychopharmacology industry. I probably would be worse off than I am now without treatment. Although they still ask when I can no longer take my medication and if I’ve tried going off of them, my parents have since come to understand that I am receiving treatment, even if they don’t entirely understand depression and still distrust medication. My former therapist was right though. Medication doesn’t bestow any kind of special advantage, nor did it turn me into a zombie or a former shell of myself, as I had feared. It only brings me as close to being “normal” as I can be. Perhaps in the end, that is all that I can expect of it.
Electronic Resources Librarian
Texas A&M University
APALA President, 2013-2014
NAAPIMHA (National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association): http://naapimha.org/
Friends Do Make a Difference Campaign: http://naapimha.org/friends-do-make-a-difference/
Raising Awareness About Mental Health and Suicide Prevention in the AAPI Community: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/05/10/raising-awareness-about-mental-health-and-suicide-prevention-aapi-community
Suicidal Thoughts Among Asians, Native Hawai’ians or Other Pacific Islanders: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2K13/Spotlight/Spot118-suicidal-thoughts.pdf
The It’s Ok Campaign: http://itsokcampaign.org/
Chai (Counselors Helping South Asians/Indians, Inc.): http://chaicounselors.wordpress.com/
Asian American Mental Health, Ramey Ko story (by a friend of mine): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvvlLdHS1FA&feature=youtu.be
My name is Charlotte Roh and I matriculate from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in July 2013.
I am currently an Association of Research Libraries Career Enhancement Program (ARL CEP) Fellow at the University of Arizona, Tucson. I am investigating collaborative opportunities for the University of Arizona Press and Library. It is similar to the work I did last semester with Illinois Business Consulting, and I really enjoy it because I get to put my academic publishing experience with Taylor & Francis and Oxford University Press to work in a library setting. I am currently interviewing leaders in scholarly communications and library publishing, which is just amazing.
I joined APALA in January 2012, right when I first started library school, on the advice of Jina Park (also an APALA member and scholarship recipient). I am so glad that I did, because it was through fellow members such as Charlene Hsu Gross and Michelle Baildon that I learned about opportunities like the Spectrum Scholar Program and the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC). I was also a little isolated in the Midwest, so I really enjoyed all the listserv emails from members around the country. It made me feel so connected and encouraged! I haven’t been a member that long, but APALA has already been a community for me and made an impact on my library career. I am glad to give back as the layout editor for the APALA newsletter.
I am Korean American, and was born and raised in Southern California, in an area that has a dense population of Korean Americans. So I grew up very privileged in terms of identity, very sheltered. Moving to New York in my 20s and then Illinois for library school were both difficult transitions for me. Half of New York is from somewhere else, so there is a constant clash of cultures. However, in Illinois that clash is more subtle. For example, the University of Illinois has an undergraduate population that is 19% Asian American, but there were only two Asian Americans in my cohort at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS). Fortunately I arrived at a time when the program was actively pursuing inclusion, so I was able to participate in founding the GSLIS Students of Color student group and co-chair the Inclusions and Exclusions Reading Group.
My three career priorities are education, research, and making a holistic impact on a community. Ideally these priorities are interrelated and can really happen in any kind of librarianship, which is something I love about the profession. In my library work, I have found real satisfaction building relationships in the course of solving a research problem or participating in a teaching/learning moment. I want to continue to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion, and hope to make a positive impact in librarianship as a field.
I am so grateful for the APALA community. You have really made a difference in my life, thank you!
Charlotte’s photo credit goes to Molly Magee.
If you’ll be attending ALA Annual 2013 in Chicago, learn about our essay series and join the conversation to share what your normal is.
What’s Your Normal?: A Discourse of Own Realities
Time: Saturday, June 28, 10:30am-11:30am
Location: Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, Jefferson Park 10B
ALA Scheduler: http://ala13.ala.org/node/10928
Last year, APALA launched What’s Your Normal?, a new essay series that highlights the diversity–e.g., ethnicity, language, religion, sexuality, (dis)ability, citizenship, socioeconomic status–within the Asian and Pacific American category and offers snippets of what is “normal” for the writers. With this program, we will continue and broaden the conversation and provide a forum for constructive discourse – using personal narratives as starting points, we will not only create awareness about individual realities and identities but discuss them within the larger social contexts and come up with practical and positive ideas and action items. So, what’s your normal? Let’s talk!
Based on the concept of a conversation about our different definitions of what is “normal” for us, this program takes some overarching categories of diversity and serves them up for discussion, as well as for brainstorming for practical service and program ideas.
We will begin with a very brief introduction to the What’s Your Normal? essay series and how it serves as the impetus for the session’s discourse. We will then form small breakout groups, with each group focusing on a specific topic; the bulk of the session will be spent on this part. At the end, we will reconvene, share the main points and outcomes from the discussions, and prioritize ideas to be pursued.
At least three topics will be discussed at this session. The pre-determined topics are: 1) racial, ethnic, and national identities 2) gender identity and sexual orientation, and 3) health and disability status. Depending on interest and the number of attendees, one or two additional topics may be added; attendees will vote on which topics to add. Ideas for additional topics include: generational identity (age), religious affiliation and identity, immigrant and refugee status and identity, and socio-economic status; attendees are free to add their own topic ideas. While there will be facilitators for the pre-determined topics, we will need volunteers to facilitate the additional topics.
If you’ll be attending ALA Annual 2013 in Chicago, be sure to mark your calendars and join us for the APALA President’s Program!
Pushing the Boundaries: LGBTQ Presentation and Representation of/by Asian/Pacific American Writers
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Hyatt Regency McCormick Place
Jackson Park 10A
Details: ALA13 Scheduler
Sponsored by APALA and GLBTRT, this program focuses on the representation, or lack thereof, of LGBTQ members within the spectrum of the Asian/Pacific American (APA) community, particularly in literary works by APA LGBTQ writers. It also discusses the movement of presenting and representing APA LGBTQs in literature through activism and agency, whether as an individual or as a group pushing the boundaries within and outside the walls of APA and LGBTQ communities.
Program speakers include: authors Malinda Lo, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Dwight Okita and MOONROOT zine collective members Sine Hwang Jensen and Linda Nguyễn.
|Malinda Lo (Speaker)
|Malinda Lo is an award-winning journalist for her work in LGBT media. Her debut novel, Ash, was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist and a Nebula Award Finalist. Her next novel, Huntress, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and another Lambda Finalist. Malinda lives with her partner in California.|
|Mary Anne Moharanj (Moderator & Speaker)|
|Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of BODIES IN MOTION, a Sri Lankan-American novel-in-stories (HarperCollins) and nine other titles. BODIES IN MOTION was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, has been translated into six languages, and was selected for the One Book, One Truman program at Truman College. Mohanraj was a recipient of a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for Asian American arts organizing, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, a Neff Fellowship in English, a Steffenson-Canon Fellowship in the Humanities, and the Scowcroft Prize for Fiction. Mohanraj is Clinical Assistant Professor of fiction writing and literature at the University of Illinois, Associate Coordinator of Asian and Asian American Studies and Executive Director of both DesiLit (www.desilit.org), an arts organization supporting S. Asian and diaspora literature, and the SLF (www.speclit.org), an arts organization supporting speculative fiction.|
|Dwight Okita (Speaker)
|Dwight Okita is a Chicago native and third-generation, gay Japanese American. He started out writing poems in first grade because he couldn’t write compositions. Tia Chucha Press published his poetry book CROSSING WITH THE LIGHT. He has written stage plays which were produced in Chicago including THE RAINY SEASON, RICHARD SPECK, and the collaborative play THE RADIANCE OF A THOUSAND SUNS. Okita was featured in a documentary for public TV called “Out & Proud in Chicago.” Currently, he is focusing on novels: His first novel THE PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL was a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, and his second novel THE HOPE STORE is entered in the 2013 Amazon contest.|
|Linda Nguyễn (Speaker)
|Linda Nguyễn is an MLIS graduate, queer artist, and member of the MOONROOT zine collective living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.|
|Sine Hwang Jensen (Speaker)|
|Sine Hwang Jensen is a graduate student, activist, and dreamer from Baltimore, MD working towards an MA in History and an MLS at the University of Maryland, College Park with a specialization in archives, records, and information management. She is passionate about cultural heritage preservation, and Asian Pacific American history. She works as a racial justice facilitator and women’s health teaching associate at Johns Hopkins University and is a member of the MOONROOT zine collective.|
Dear APALA members and friends,
Act now before APALA’s ALA Annual social events before early-bird pricing ends and register now!
Sign up form for both events: www.apalaweb.org/registration
Friday, June 28, 2013 (12PM–3PM)
Cambodian American Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial (Cambodian Association of Illinois)
2831 W Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL 60625
Enjoy a guided visit through the Cambodian American Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial on Chicago’s North Side. Our visit will include South East Asian finger foods and snacks. The museum staff is excited to host us! Established in 2004, the Killing Fields Memorial is the only memorial of its kind outside of Cambodia. The museum and memorial aim to raise awareness of the Cambodian genocide, and human rights more broadly, and celebrate the renewal of Cambodian community and culture in the United States. A portion of APALA’s tour price will be donated to the museum. Additional donations are welcome.
Saturday, June 29, 2013 (Begins 7PM)
APALA’s Annual 2013 Dinner
Home of Mary Anne Mohanraj
An intimate affair at the Oak Park home of writer Mary Anne Mohanraj: Enjoy a catered and home cooked buffet-style dinner of traditional Sri Lankan dishes (including vegetarian/vegan options) while mingling with friends old and new. Dr. Mohanraj is Professor of Fiction and Literature and Associate Director of Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She has authored nine titles, including Bodies in Motion, and is also a translator, Asian American arts organizer, and Executive Director of DesiLit.org. Dr. Mohanraj will be cooking part of the meal and will read pieces from her writings.
Sign up here for both events: www.apalaweb.org/registration
Please share with your friends, colleagues, and other people who might be interested.
Register early and take advantage of the early-bird registration option. Early registration will help us tremendously with ordering food. Thank you!
Questions? Contact Samanthi Hewakapuge, email@example.com.
Download PDF flyer of APALA events at ALA13: