Friday, December 19, 2008

Some facts about Laotian American literature

* A significant body of Laotian American literature has only recently begun to emerge since the early 1990s. Only a few examples from the 1980s have been identified at present.

* Many younger Laotian American writers write predominantly in English more than Lao.

* While Hmong American writers are particularly concentrated in the Twin Cities and California, Laotian American writers tend to be more geographically isolated from one another.

* The SatJaDham Lao Literary Project is one of the oldest continuous networks of Laotian American writers in existence at the present, first established in April, 1995. The group has held 7 national conferences to date of Laotian writers and readers. The group's name comes from the combination of the words "SatJa" and "Dhamma." "Satja" means truth in Lao, and "dham" is from dhamma, the teaching of the buddha.

* There are several masterpieces of classical Laotian literature including: the Vetsantrasadok, the Sin Say, and the Thao Hung. The Vetsntrasadok is a story about the life of the Buddha. Sin Say is a story by the poet Phangkham about three brothers who defeat an ogre. The Thao Hung is a historical epic about ancient families vying for control of Southeast Asia.

* Traditionally Laotian popular poems and songs are often satiric in nature.

* Traditional Laotian poets can recite epic works from memory that last up to six hours.

* The Lao literary tradition reaches back to the 15th and 16th century and survive principally in the form of palm-leaf manuscripts with religious and scholarly writing kept at the libraries of some 1,7000 Buddhist monasteries all over Laos. Some of these texts are written on 'Sa' mulberry tree paper, which is less durable than palm-leaf documents and may last about 1,000 years if preserved well.

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