NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley

Join the St. Croix Valley we read The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang

The NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley is a one book, one community program that brings together residents from throughout the St. Croix Valley in Minnesota and Wisconsin around a common book. ArtReach is pleased to announce the 2021 programming will include a variety of literary, visual and performing arts opportunities centered on themes found in The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang.

Stories and art, vivid and true.

Join your St. Croix Valley neighbors in reading The Latehomecomer and celebrate the arts with activities related to the themes of the book.


Read the book

The Latehomecomer is the 2021 NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley common book.

Read and Release copies of the The Latehomecomer are now available. Check the Little Free Library in front of ArtReach or stop in the gallery for a copy to read and then pass on. Book club kits can be found in circulation at local libraries throughout the St. Croix Valley. If you prefer to purchase your own copy of The Latehomecomer, our local independently-owned bookstores Valley Bookseller in Stillwater and Chapter 2 Books in Hudson are offering a 15% discount for those who would like their own copy.


About the author

Kao Kalia Yang, author of The Latehomecomer

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American author, film-maker, and teacher; she is also a co-founder of ‘Words Wanted,’ a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. Her work is passionate and eloquent as she seeks to deepen the understanding of the human condition in order to garner more compassion in the world.

Kalia was born in Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in 1980. She and her family came to Minnesota as refugees in the summer of 1987, and her first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, reflects upon this move. It is a first-hand account of the journey that many Hmong had to make from place to place in order to find ‘home.’ A review by Publishers Weekly praises Kalia, “Yang tells her family’s story with grace; she narrates their struggles, beautifully weaving in Hmong folklore and culture.” The Latehomecomer was the winner of two Minnesota Book Awards, a finalist for the PEN USA Award, earned a NEA Big Read title, and is the best selling book in Coffee House Press history. It is the first Hmong-authored book to gain national distribution from a literary press.


May 20: NEA Big Read Kick-off & Exhibition Opening

Immerse in stories, sights, sounds and tastes of Hmong culture in this opening-night celebration of the 2021 NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley.

illustration by Xee Reiter, illustration by Billy Thao, design by Maisee Heurh - fashion photo by Cam Xiong

Start your journey into the storytelling traditions at the root of Hmong culture by viewing the gallery exhibitions Go Within and Go On featuring the literary works of Kao Kalia Yang, watercolors and drawings by Xee Reiter, illustrations by Billy Thao, and a collection of historic to contemporary Hmong fashions curated by Ashaley Yang and Sai Chang. This inspiring exhibition honors Hmong women and considers how we preserve identity and culture amidst change.

Enhance your evening’s experience with comforting and lively flavors from the kitchen of Chef Yia Vang. Chef Vang uses food to tell a story and believes that every dish has a narrative. Pick-up a pre-ordered boxed meal or shop from a selection of spices, sauces and purple rice kits available in the ArtReach Gift Gallery.

Gallery admission is free, but registration is required for the opening reception.

ArtReach St. Croix, 224 N. 4th Street, Stillwater, MN
Thursday, May 20, 6-9pm


June 24: Voices of Father and Daughter Together: An Evening with Kao Kalia Yang and Bee Yang

Gather outdoors with us at Carpenter Nature Center for an in-person evening of Hmong storytelling with author Kao Kalia Yang. A virtual version will be available for those who prefer to experience this event from home.


Kao Kalia will be joined by her father, Bee Yang who will open and close the evening with song poetry of kwv txhiaj, adding another layer to the poignant accounts of the Hmong from the mountains of Laos, through the refugee camps of Thailand and to new struggles in the United States. Kalia credits her father as one of her most important literary influences. She writes, “Your songs, sung and unsung, guide me in each story I encounter.”

Enhance your weekend with a take-home kit of comforting and lively flavors from the kitchen of Chef Yia Vang. Chef Vang uses food to tell a story and believes that every dish has a narrative. Pre-order a meal kit ($85 meal for two) for post-presentation pick-up. The meal kit can be refrigerated to enjoy the next day.

Admission to this rain or shine event is free, but registration is required. In order to safely enjoy the show, registration is limited to 140 people and visitors are asked to practice social distancing. This event is also available online.

An American Sign Language interpreter and Hmong translation will be provided for this event.

Presented by ArtReach St. Croix at Carpenter Nature Center, 12805 St. Croix Trail S., Hastings, MN
Thursday, June 24, 7-8:30pm


June 14: Literature to Life

A beautiful, stirring and powerful performance of a new stage adaptation of The Latehomecomer by Twin Cities actress Gaosong Heu.

Join us online for this new, virtual performance of The Latehomecomer featuring actress and traditional Flower Singer, Gaosong Heu. The productionwill be followed by a talkback with the performer and a LTL teaching artist. Co-hosted by St. Croix Festival Theatre.

Gaosong V. Heuis a Hmong American performance artist, musician, vocalist, published writer, educator, arts administrator and entrepreneur based in St. Paul, MN.

Presented by St. Croix Festival Theatre and ArtReach St. Croix, this event will take place online.
Monday, June 14 at 7pm

Register online to receive event link.


Additional Resources

Deepen your understanding of The Latehomecomer with FREE online resources from Twin Cities PBS (TPT). Gain access to a selection of nationally distributed PBS originals on a range of topics from food and history to art and local culture. TPT membership is not required.


NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

NEA Big Read is designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. ArtReach St. Croix is one of 84 organizations to receive a grand to host an NEA Big Read project between September 2020 and June 2021.

ArtReach St. Croix is presenting NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley in conjunction with core program partners Valley Bookseller, Stillwater Public Library, University of Minnesota Press, St. Croix Festival Theatre, UW River Falls, River Falls Public Library and library branches located in communities between St. Croix Falls, WI, and Hastings, MN.

See past years NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley book selections and programming samples.