Yellow Rain

Mai Der Vang.. Graywolf, $17 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-64445-065-9
The powerful second book from Vang (Afterland) offers a record of the suffering of the Hmong people in Southeast Asia during the 1970s and '80s, when thousands were killed and stricken by a mysterious substance known as yellow rain. Many people claimed to have seen the substance dropped from planes, inciting the U.S. to accuse the Soviet Union of chemical warfare. Vang constructs collage poems from intelligence documents and memorandums, scientific research, news reports, and personal accounts to weave a tapestry of the known and unknown, and an elegy for those whose deaths remain a mystery. Vang's grief is palpable as she memorializes the victims and recognizes the silence and uncertainty that surrounds yellow rain as a critical part of her heritage: "I inherited yellow rain as I also inherited the lost. When/ my parents recalled what they knew about yellow rain, they/ did not speak of bees. Only in whispers did the elders say/ anything about the rain and those who fell beneath it." While she does not offer an explanation for yellow rain, she holds the United States accountable for its history of atrocities in the region, including the use of Agent Orange. Vang memorably reckons with a complex and tragic cultural history. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 08/14/2021
Release date: 09/21/2021
Genre: Poetry
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