Monday, January 11, 2010

MN Lao artist's life featured in children's book

A very big congratulations is due to long-time colleague of mine, Lao American visual artist Mali Kouanchao, whose life served as the basis for the new children's book Mali Under the Night Sky, written and illustrated by Youme Landowne.

Due out in July 2010, it is being released by the award-winning Texas-based Cinco Punto Press. Cinco Puntos seeks to publish great books which make a difference in the way you see the world. To quote the publisher:

"Mali Under the Night Sky is the true story of Laotian-American artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, whose family was forced by civil war to flee Laos when she was five. Before the war began, Mali lived an idyllic life in a community where she felt safe and was much loved. She loved to sit in front of her house and ask everyone who passed by, “Where are you going?” She herself went everywhere too—climbing on the flowering trees, catching tiny fish in a rice field, looking for pale bamboo shoots in the dark forest. She loved the time she spent with her family, napping in the hot afternoons, making feasts and coming together on special days to celebrate. But the coming war caused her family to flee to another country and a life that was less than ideal. What did she carry with her? She carried her memories. And they in turn carried her across the world, sharing where she is from and all that she loves with the people she meets."

It's wonderful to see Lao American stories finally being recognized. Having known Mali for nearly a decade, now, I think it's time her story and her art receives the recognition and acclaim it deserves.

She's done groundbreaking work to develop a new and daring visual vocabulary for the Lao American experience of the world, with a style that's evolved substantially over the years. One of her well known pieces is the one used by Refugee Nation.

It's very hard to find early examples of her work now, but she's been part of some amazing projects over the years, including several murals you can spot in Minneapolis and Minnesota.

I've had a chance to see advance previews of the book and it's very touching, a don't miss for 2010. I hope it will also inspire other Lao writers, artists and community members to tell their stories too.

The well-regarded Cinco Punto Press has received the American Book Award for excellence in publishing and been inducted into the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. They've received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Texas Commission for the Arts. Several of their books have received Southwest Book Awards and they've received a special Southwest Book Award in 1993 for outstanding achievement in bringing national recognition to their regional literature. They also received funds from the Fideicomiso para la Cultura de México y Estados Unidos.

1 comment:

youme said...

Thank you for sharing the story, we will have a celebration for tuk khon when the book comes out. p.s. I might get the chance to visit Vientiane for my honeymoon in vietnam feb.1-feb.15. do you know dokked publishers there?