Mai Neng Moua, a pioneering Hmong author, read from her new nonfiction book last Friday, which questions a common Hmong tradition.
Moua said her book, “The Bride Price: A Hmong Wedding Story,” is a memoir of her “journey from trauma,” finding herself and becoming whole again.
The event was held in McLane Hall, Room 161. It was presented by the Hmong American Writers’ Circle and the Fresno State Writing Minor.
Moua’s reading included discussing a “bride price” with her mother who asked, “What parent does not select the bride price?”
“The elders say that ‘the bride price is a promise that the groom and his family will love and care for the bride, and they will not abandon or beat her because they invested good money in the bride and she is valuable,’” Moua read. “Although I didn’t fully understand it at first, I said, ‘I understand what it is. I just don’t want it.’”
Although Moua seems to be beginning a discussion around the “bride price,” she admitted she may be inviting backlash, since it’s a controversial issue to question.
“I wrote this book for young Hmong Americans who also have these questions,” Moua said.
Fresno State student Sandra Arezalo said she learned about the Hmong culture, which she is not regularly exposed to.
“It’s really important to showcase the differences to embrace the cultural diversity that we see every day,” Arezalo said. “We both thought that this is something that is really monumental.”
Arezalo said it’s even more important that the cultural practice is being analyzed in literature.
Student Mai Lai Vang said the event brought awareness.
“I’ve had conversations like this many times, and it’s just great that she came out with a book to bring more awareness to [the bride price],” Vang said. “I definitely recommend it because it is a big issue in the Hmong community, so people should be more aware of it and know what it’s about.”
Student Dylan Strobel said the event helped him understand the Hmong community a little better.
“Events where you get to hear about what people are writing and what people have been through – I think that’s always a very important thing,” Strobel said.
Moua encouraged young Hmong women in the audience to use the book to start a conversation of their own.
“Ask about, ‘What is the bride price? How do you feel about it? Why do you want to collect one or why don’t you want to collect one?’ And then, figure out how you feel about it,” Moua told the audience. “We can start these conversations early before it’s too late.”