Award-winning author Kao Kalia Yang delivers and inspiring tale of resourceful children confronting adversaries in the Ban Vinai refugee camp. Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang and illustrated by Billy Thao is published by the University of Minnesota Press.
“Yang Warriors is a gentle reminder that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. A moving and powerful story of the hope and resilience of a Hmong family,” Carole Lindstrom, author of We Are Water Protectors.
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After lunch the Yang warriors prepare for battle. They practice drills, balance rocks on their heads, wield magical swords from fallen branches. Led by ten-year-old Master Me (whose name means “little”), the ten cousins are ready to defend the family at all costs. After a week without fresh vegetables, the warriors embark on a dangerous mission to look for food, leaving the camp’s boundaries, knowing their punishment would be severe if they were caught by the guards.
In this inspiring picture book, fierce and determined children confront the hardships of Ban Vinai refugee camp, where the author lived as a child. Yang’s older sister, seven-year-old Dawb, was one of the story’s warriors, and her brave adventure unfolds here with all the suspense and excitement that held her five-year-old sister spellbound many years later. Accompanied by the evocative and rich cultural imagery of debut illustrator Billy Thao, the warriors’ secret mission shows what feats of compassion and courage children can perform, bringing more than foraged greens back to the younger children and to their elders. In this unforgiving place, with little to call their own, these children are the heroes, offering gifts of hope and belonging in a truly unforgettable way.
Yang Warriors is an adventure tale set in an unlikely place featuring a tiny ethnic minority that the world is still only beginning to learn about. It is an ode to childhood heroes, the warriors who teach us the many ways in which we can resist and fight the systems of oppression in a big world. And in a world full of refugees, this book provides a rare look into the magical world of refugee children, not as victims of war, but as agents of their own destinies.
Kao Kalia Yang is author of The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, winner of Minnesota Book Awards in both Creative Nonfiction/Memoir and Reader’s Choice, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award in Creative Nonfiction as well as the Asian Literary Award in Nonfiction. Her second book, The Song Poet, won a Minnesota Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA Award in Nonfiction, and the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize. Her first children’s book, A Map into the World, is an ALA Notable Book, a Charlotte Zolotow Book Award honoree, and a winner of the Minnesota Book Award in Children’s Literature. The Shared Room, illustrated by Xee Reiter, was published by Minnesota in 2020.
Billy Thao is a Hmong American artist who was born and raised in Minnesota. This is his first book.