Teachers who work with English-language learners in Sacramento, Calif., in St. Paul, Minn., and in other communities with many Hmong immigrants are usually familiar with “story cloths.” On a large piece of fabric, the Hmong embroider scenes that tell the stories of their people. I’ve seen a story cloth in St. Paul, for example, on which the needlework artist had embroidered the planes used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to evacuate some Hmong veterans from Laos during the Vietnam War era, when many Hmong secretly fought on the side of the U.S. military against Communists in Laos.
A new children’s book, Grandfather’s Story Cloth, published by Shen’s Books, tells how a Hmong boy, Chersheng, uses a story cloth once made by his grandfather to help the old man to recall memories that are quickly slipping away. The story is written by Linda Gerdner, a nurse, and Sarah Langford, a nursing student, and is illustrated by Stuart Loughridge. It’s the first bilingual children’s story I’ve seen published in Hmong and English, and I think it would be a wonderful addition to a teacher’s library at a school with students of Hmong heritage. The story line is about how Chersheng struggles to accept how his grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, can no longer interact with him in the same way that he did before getting the disease.
The U.S. Census counted nearly 170,000 Hmong living in the United States in 2000.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.