All posts filed under: Secret War in Laos

Living Iu-Mien and Khmu: The Route Forward, Back Through Time

This is the first in a series from Janit von Saechao about discovering her Iu-Mien and Khmu roots. I haven’t always been open about my identity as a Khmu and Mien person. I remember as an elementary school student, when teachers and peers asked what my ethnicity was, my instinctive reaction was immediate deflection. This was a conversation I hated having. The comments of, “what are you?” and “where are you from?” drew feelings from my child self that I wasn’t equipped to handle. The person asking never knew what they were getting themselves into and I was never really ready to explain. So I resorted to replying with saying I was Lao or Thai, even as I knew that these were not my truths. There were various reasons I chose to misidentify. In honesty, some of it was intentional. I wanted to belong to something that was already understood, something that others could conceptualize without me having to scramble in search for words to communicate the complexity of my peoples’ stories. After all, how …

To All My Faux Aunties and Uncles…

Dear Aunties and Uncles: I now know the purpose you served… For years, growing up, it was never properly explained to me. Perhaps my parents lacked the words I would understand. Perhaps it was more than that. Because of that communication gap, I genuinely believed that everyone my mom and dad introduced me to, was my blood relative. That meant that when I went to my American grade school and people asked me about my family, I inadvertently lied. “I’m the youngest of 8. I know, big family. Both of my parents have like 13 brothers and sisters each. I haven’t even met all of them! Well, some died in the war, of course. I never knew my grandparents.” I guess I should be happy I grew up in a state surrounded by Mormons and Catholics. Big families weren’t anything new to them. But, for the skeptical others that dared to question my authenticity? I was sure self-righteous in my defense of my village-like family! At a certain point, I reached an age where I started questioning …