Jer Xiong grew up in Chico and Oroville, CA. She graduated from CSU, Chico with a B.A. in English & minors in Creative Writing and Asian Studies. Currently, she’s a Nonfiction candidate in the MFA Creative Writing program at Fresno State. She grew up reading YA novels and fanfiction which nourished her love for reading and writing. Although she dabbles in fiction and poetry, she mainly writes creative nonfiction, interrogating the complexity of her Hmong-American identity.
She’s been a writing instructor, writing tutor, a peer mentor, an officer, and an editor for the Watershed Review and The Normal School. Currently, she is an editorial assistant for the MFA office. Her works have been in maivmai; (559) JOU-RNAL; Celebrate Hmong; Flies, Cockroaches, and Poets; and Pos Moua’s Karst Mountains Will Bloom.
Jer started this organization with her colleagues and friends because she believed in the importance of Hmong American writing and believed that a space was necessary for her fellow Hmong writers to grow and support each other. This community is highly important to her as it is this same community that helped her realize her path in creative writing. She hopes to continuously uplift and support Hmong artists of all mediums.
Gaoyong Yang-Vang, primarily known as Gao, was born in Fresno, CA, but has been raised all around the Central Valley. She is in her first year in Fresno State’s MFA program. She studies poetry and writes about the instability of her childhood and attempts to understand her own past without familial roots and exploring non-traditional identities of a Hmong woman. On her writing, friend and mentor Anthony Cody, says Gao “explores Hmongness in fresh, unexpected ways that ask readers to think beyond the roles and tropes often depicted in popular culture of Hmong.”
Having never lived a life where Hmong traditions have prevented her from doing what she wanted, she still does not let it stop her, especially now. Gao is many things, a feminist, an orphan, a first-generation college student, but it does not and will not stop there.
As a student of Mireyda “Mia” Barraza Martinez, the creative writing community was introduced to her along with spaces and organizations like the Laureate Lab Visual Wordist Studio and the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC), which continue to help nurture and guide her reading and writing toward the future.
Yia Lee was born and raised in Fresno, California. She is the middle daughter in a family of nine. As a young child, her father encouraged her to read. She ignored him until one summer when, out of sheer boredom, she picked up a children’s novel and somehow became hooked. She has been an avid reader since. Her love for reading led to her desire to write. However, there were no novels with Hmong stories around.
For many years Yia loved reading, and disassociated her Hmong identity with reading and writing. But while attending UC Davis, Yia became more interested in her family roots. If she could not find any Hmong stories to read, perhaps she could write them herself. During her reading and writing journey, Yia joined the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. This led her to discover an emerging Hmong American literature field, and inspire her to continue writing.
Lee Lee grew up surrounded by her father’s peach trees in Fresno, California. Amid fluttering peach blossoms during her childhood, she and her sisters dreamed of becoming crazy spinster cat ladies. She went on to attain her BA in English from Fresno State. Afterwards, she began attending HAIS workshops where she learned to appreciate and explore the complexities of her Hmong-American identity. Currently, she is in her first year in Fresno State’s MFA program. She enjoys weaving stories about sisterhood, family, and gender.
Mai Der Vang
Mai Der Vang is the author of Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, she served as a Visiting Writer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Tin House, the American Poetry Review, among other journals and anthologies. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere.
Mai Der is a member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle where she co-edited How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. A Kundiman fellow, Mai Der has completed residencies at Civitella Ranieri and Hedgebrook. Born and raised in Fresno, California, she earned degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Fresno State.