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Three Graywolf Titles Longlisted for the National Book Awards: Abundance by Jakob Guanzon for Fiction, The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández for Translated Literature, and The Wild Fox of Yemen by Threa Almontaser for Poetry

Book Title

Yellow Rain

Author 1
Mai Der Vang
Poem Excerpt
            We don’t have the means     to give up the absolute.
Too much     drains at stake     to ratify our own     absurdity.
     Announce our verdict     of confusion     we cannot
            plan     the uninvited     but to blend
dichotomies of truth     brain-drowsed     junked out
                                    crude     to concede.
                        We     an     impressive     debacle.
                                                     Here lie                                              
                                                     the ashes
                                                     of our
—from "We Can’t Confirm Yellow Rain Happened, We Can’t Confirm It Didn’t"
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 its war in Vietnam, 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.

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A reinvestigation of chemical biological weapons dropped on the Hmong people in the fallout of the US war in Vietnam

About the Author

Mai Der  Vang
Credit: Ze Moua
Mai Der Vang is an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. Her poetry has appeared in the New Republic, Poetry, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, and her essays have been published in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post. Her debut collection, Afterland, received the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She lives in California.
More by author

Upcoming Events

Mai Der Vang reading and in conversation with Kao Kalia Yang on YELLOW RAIN, presented by Subtext Books and East Side Freedom Library

SubText: A Bookstore in St. Paul, MNview map
5:00 PM Pacific / 6:00 PM Mountain / 7:00 PM Central / 8:00 PM Eastern. This event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast via Crowdcast. Click here for more information and to register. Copies of Yellow Rain are available to purchase from Subtext Books. 

VIRTUAL: Mai Der Vang (YELLOW RAIN) and Donika Kelly (THE RENUNCIATIONS) reading and in conversation as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival

Brooklyn Book Festival in Brooklyn, NYview map
3:00 PM PT / 4:00 PM MT / 5:00 PM CT / 6:00 PM ET. "Poetry in Times of Crisis." With Kendra Allen and Jorie Graham, moderated by Jamia Wilson. This event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast via Crowdcast. Click here for more information and to register

VIRTUAL: Mai Der Vang reading and in conversation about YELLOW RAIN, presented by the Literary Arts Institute at the College of Saint Benedict

College of St Benedict in St Joseph, MNview map
5:00 PM PT / 6:00 PM MT / 7:00 PM CT / 8:00 PM ET. In conversation with Dr. Rachel Marston, Associate Director of the Literary Arts Institute. This event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast virtually, and the event link will be posted one week before the event. Click here for more information.

Mai Der Vang is the winner of the LAI's 2021 Sister Mariella Gable Prize. Her book Yellow Rain is the 20th book in the series, a collaboration between the Literary Arts Institute at the College of St. Benedict and Graywolf Press. 

VIRTUAL: Mai Der Vang reading and in conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen about YELLOW RAIN, presented by Seminary Coop and University of Chicago Creative Writing

Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago, ILview map
This event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast via Zoom. Click here for more information and to register. Copies of Yellow Rain are available for sale from Seminary Coop Bookstore


  • “[Mai Der Vang] transform[s] the impersonal and politically and ethically deceitful into a vivid reclamation of the brutal truth.”Booklist, starred review
  • “Vang memorably reckons with a complex and tragic cultural history.”Publishers Weekly
  • “Writing defiantly against the erasure and dismissal of Hmong experience, Mai Der Vang offers an intense condensation of Hmong knowledge and truth in Yellow Rain. This is an impressive accomplishment that blends poetry, archive, history, and polemic in a bravura effort to assert the being and voice of Hmong people.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • “Mai Der Vang’s Yellow Rain spoke to a piece of my heart that has yearned for such a work as this to come forth in response to the layered tragedies of our shared history, to establish a record in which our voices cannot be erased, our bodies forgotten, and our names forsaken. . . . An indictment of the highest and most poetic order.”—Kao Kalia Yang
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