What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond. These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The #Midwessay: Kao Kalia Yang, Thoughts on the Midwest
Thoughts on the Midwest
Kao Kalia Yang
The older men and women wear long sleeves, even in the summertime, particularly when they work underneath the sweltering Minnesota sun on the edges of the disappearing prairie.
They stand where Native communities have lived and died, and continued living. They hold gardening hoes in their hands, a square of dirty metal at the end of a wooden handle. They till the earth. They tend to the earth. They seed it.
They grow in the surface of the earth vegetables common and uncommon: eggplants, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Bok Choy, Gai Lan, Gai Choy, Choy Sum, varieties of green onion, cilantro, spiky leaves of culantro close to the ground.
They sell them at the farmer’s markets: tables full of varieties of greens, baskets full of red and yellow peppers, buckets full of potatoes and tomatoes, and so much more.
They are Hmong farmers from the Midwest, refugees from faraway, an old people in search of a new home, hoping to feed and clothe children, raise them to be the next generation of Americans.
Kao Kalia Yang is an award-winning Hmong-American writer. She is the author of the memoirs The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, The Song Poet, and Somewhere in the Unknown World. Yang is also the author of the children’s books, A Map Into the World, The Shared Room, and The Most Beautiful Thing. She co-edited the ground-breaking collection What God is Honored Here?: Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss By and For Indigenous Women and Women of Color. Yang’s work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA literary awards, and the Dayton’s Literary Peace Prize. Her work for children has been recognized as Notable Books by the American Library Association, the Zolotow Honor, as Kirkus Best Books of the Year, and won a Heartland Bookseller’s Award. Yang is the recipient of four Minnesota Book Awards. Kao Kalia Yang won a McKnight Fellowship in Prose, was honored with the International Institute of Minnesota’s Olga Zoltai Award for her community leadership and service to New Americans, and the Ordway Center with a Sally Award for Social Impact.