In our conversation we talked about language, both English and Hmong, and the art of storytelling. Kalia had this to say:
"My uncle asked me do you know what a storyteller is? And I told him yes, they are writers but in spoken words. He told me no, in order to be good you have to understand. That a story is a like a stop sign on the road of life. Its purpose is to make you pause, look both sides and check the trajectory of the horizon before you continue. I've always had a profound understanding that stories were the gift of life. It was what one person had to give to another and so I grew up surrounded by stories - in both Hmong and English."She went on to tell me how different English and Hmong are to her:
"The English language never feels quite right. It is eternally breathless. It is always as if I am doing CPR to the language. But in Hmong, it flows beautifully in voice. The way I sound in Hmong, I believe, is the way I read on the pages in English. I think I write like a native. Very fearlessly. I write much better than I can speak because for so long I didn't speak. For 20 years of my life I was a selective mute. I prefer that (writing) medium any time any day. If we could do this interview in email or live chat it would be so ideal for me. Because I don't like the way I sound in English, even today...even right now.Hope you get a chance to hear our interview tonight (2/23) at 6pm or Sunday 2/27 at 9am. Or check the archived interviews.
When I speak in Hmong it feels like a song on my lips in English I feel so raspy and breathless. Hmong is a tonal language and every breath that I breathe in the world carries meaning. In English I have to trap the air in my lungs and units of meaning to make sounds to the bigger world. "