For the new year, we’re starting something new here at Little Laos on the Prairie. Every month, the staff will unveil our favorites for that month’s theme. It gives us a serious chance to let loose a little–and it gives you the opportunity to get to know us a little better! Besides, does asking “What’s your favorite Lao dish” ever get old? We don’t think so because we never tire of hearing about food! This month, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. we asked our staff about a non-relative that made a profound difference in their childhood. Who were your heroes growing up, and why?
–Saysomphorn Sisavatdy, email@example.com
As a child of the 90’s, I grew up with Lip Smackers, YTV (that’s a kid’s channel, for all you non-Canadians), and of course, pop music. The first album I ever owned belonged to the original queen of pop: Mariah Carey. I couldn’t get enough of “Daydream”. When I wasn’t listening to it, the album booklet was permanently in my hands. An avid reader from a young age, this was my intro to the non-prose world. I was in awe of Mariah’s songwriting. She inspired me to put pen to paper (the result was pretty cringeworthy poetry), and more importantly, to pursue my craft. I was encouraged to study business, medicine, or science. But Mariah was my first example of someone who made a career out of her passion. It’s something that has stayed with me as I’ve chased my love of literature and dream of being a writer.
Chanida Phaengdara Potter:
Toss up between Aaliyah, Ace of Base, Spice Girls and well, Connie Chung. Also, Sanrio characters— just because. I was into buying all kinds of stationery sets with my favorites Pochacco and Keroppi (Hello Kitty is overrated– yeah I said it). Sanrio made the best kinds of journals and colorful pens that forced you to just want to write anything and everything. That’s how I got started. Then of course, music dominated my life as a fresh American child but so did representation and looking for people who looked like me on TV; and Connie Chung as the nightly news anchor was mesmerizing to see.
Okay, so let me make it publicly known that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mariah Carey are my childhood heroes too.
Another one of my heroes was Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 – 1913. And when I was in 5th grade, I wrote a short story about Menelik II’s triumph over the invading Italian army – a moment that made Ethiopia the only country to stave off colonization by Europeans. No I’m not kidding. Yes I was opinionated and weird even as a kid.
The assignment was for every 5th grader to write a fictionalized story about a historical event, and the three students with the best story would get to meet historical fiction author Rick Sowash, who wrote the book Heroes of Ohio. I had read about Ethiopia’s victory over greedy, human-rights-crushing European imperialists in a Welcome to My Country book, and this topic seemed more appealing than writing about the “Founding Fathers” like my classmates – which wasn’t my cup of tea for reasons I couldn’t yet articulate as an 11-year old. So I wrote about Menelik II, and it was dope. While my story didn’t win, and my classmates didn’t really vibe with my story, I enjoyed the assignment and didn’t care. Yes getting histories beyond the typical text books is important.
I remember the first time in grade school we were allowed to choose a figure in history to do a report on. It really wasn’t very difficult for me to find a name. I’ve always gotten a free 3-day weekend on my birthday because of him. Naturally, I chose the man I shared a momentous occasion with, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The more I found out, the more I realized the immensity of his accomplishment and its place in history. You don’t get the controversial information, as a child, but I’ve never asked for my humans to be perfect. He remains an influential part of my search for a better world.
Bryan Thao Worra:
As a child I grew up with the Greek philosopher Socrates as a hero. One of his ideas that stuck most with me was “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That set high stakes for me and led to a lifetime of curiosity and inquiry, prompting me to always challenge what I truly knew and didn’t know, and to find joy in the pursuit of knowledge and truth not as a means to an end like a credential or career, but for the delight in knowledge itself. I can see that reflected in my own work even to this day as we confront the chaos and uncertainty of the world with a belief that answers are possible and worth seeking, as long as we ask our questions with the right intentions and an open mind.