Hmong Women

Minnesota is home to over 250,000 Asian Americans, of which Hmong constitutes the largest share. However, Hmong also comes last compared to their Asian American counterparts in attaining high school or higher degrees in education and per capita income; their statistics actually resemble more closely those of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, than Asian Americans in aggregate. Likewise, despite the belief that Asian Americans, the so-called “model minority,” enjoy impressive academic achievements, upon closer examination, a disproportionate number of Asian American students, notably those of Hmong and other Southeast Asian heritage, have found it difficult to succeed. Their challenges are largely invisible and usually dismissible, as the public tends to look only to “Asian Americans” as an undifferentiated category—data skewed by the accomplishments of the Japanese, Chinese, and Indian groups, for instance. This makes those Hmong college students extraordinary in many ways, in particular, female students who often need to fulfill the familial obligations and cultural expectations of Hmong traditions along with facing academic challenges and social responsibilities as modern American women. Indeed, the majority of these young Hmong American women are making history, being the first generation in their families to attend college. It is time for them to break their silence and share their stories, which, we hope, are informative and inspirational. Major themes on which we seek to inquire include but are not limited to the following questions: What does it mean to be a Hmong American woman? How does being a Hmong affect her career or academic development in college? What challenges and difficulties do Hmong American women face nowadays, from family to politics to pursuing a college degree? Through an ethnographic study on Hmong American women in higher education, we can start to shed some light on not only this prominent yet quiet Asian American community in Minnesota, but also the pressing issues of race, gender, and class in the United States as a whole.