Mai Der Vang - "Yellow Rain" - Viet Thanh Nguyen

Thursday, October 28, 2021 - 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Mai Der Vang

Join us for a conversation with Mai Der Vang on her book of poetry, Yellow RainShe will be joined in discussion by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Presented in partnership with the Graywolf and Creative Writing at UChicago

Virtual Event

Click HERE to attend

About the book: In this staggering work of documentary, poetry, and collage, Mai Der Vang reopens a wrongdoing that deserves a new reckoning. As the United States abandoned them at the end of the Vietnam War, many Hmong refugees recounted stories of a mysterious substance that fell from planes during their escape from Laos starting in the mid-1970s. This substance, known as "yellow rain," caused severe illnesses and thousands of deaths. These reports prompted an investigation into allegations that a chemical biological weapon had been used against the Hmong in breach of international treaties. A Cold War scandal erupted, wrapped in partisan debate around chemical arms development versus control. And then, to the world's astonishment, American scientists argued that yellow rain was the feces of honeybees defecating en masse--still held as the widely accepted explanation. The truth of what happened to the Hmong, to those who experienced and suffered yellow rain, has been ignored and discredited.

Integrating archival research and declassified documents, Yellow Rain calls out the erasure of a history, the silencing of a people who at the time lacked the capacity and resources to defend and represent themselves. In poems that sing and lament, that contend and question, Vang restores a vital narrative in danger of being lost, and brilliantly explores what it means to have access to the truth and how marginalized groups are often forbidden that access.

About the author: Mai Der Vang is the author of Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press, 2021), and Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Tin House, the American Poetry Review, among other journals and anthologies. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere.

About the interlocutor: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and numerous other awards. His most recent publication is the sequel to The Sympathizer, The Committed. His other books are a short story collection, The Refugees; Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in General Nonfiction); and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. He has also published Chicken of the Sea, a children’s book written in collaboration with his six-year-old son, Ellison. He is a University Professor, the Aerol Arnold Chair of English, and a Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, he is also a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and the editor of The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives.

Event Location: 
Virtual