Playwright May Lee-Yang “owns her own voice” at Book Fest Assembly

May+Lee-Yang%2C+Hmong+playwright%2C+poet%2C+and+performer%2C+kicked+off+Book+Fest+on+her+visit+to+Saint+Paul+Academy+and+Summit+School+on+November+16.+If+we+dont+tell+our+own+stories%2C+other+people+might+do+it+for+us.+And+worse+than+that%2C+they+might+do+it+badly+and+inaccurately.

May Lee-Yang, Hmong playwright, poet, and performer, kicked off Book Fest on her visit to Saint Paul Academy and Summit School on November 16. “If we don’t tell our own stories, other people might do it for us. And worse than that, they might do it badly and inaccurately.”

Lee-Yang's parents wanted to protect their children from gang membership. As a result, Lee-Yang stayed stayed home and read books, played video games, and watched movies to explore worlds outside her house.
Sophie jaro
Lee-Yang’s parents wanted to protect their children from gang membership. As a result, Lee-Yang stayed stayed home and read books, played video games, and watched movies to explore worlds outside her house.

May Lee-Yang, Hmong playwright, poet, and performer, kicked off Book Fest on her visit to Saint Paul Academy and Summit School on November 16.

Lee-Yang came to SPA to speak about “Owning Your Own Voice”. To educate (and ultimately entertain) the student audience, she owned the stage while providing a model for aspiring literary talent. Lee-Yang’s writing career began when her parents expressed their concern for their children’s potential for gang membership. Relegated to her home, Yang immersed herself in her own exciting fantasy worlds with movies, video games, and books, such as Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and Vampire Diaries.

“Through the simple act of reading, suddenly I was no longer in Frogtown, suddenly I might be in England having tea with a hot English guy, right?” Lee-Yang said, garnering laughs from the audience while explaining how her appreciation for books helped her travel beyond her Saint Paul neighborhood. “Or I might be in Los Angeles solving a mystery as a teenager,” she continued.

“Through the simple act of reading, suddenly I was no longer in Frogtown, suddenly I might be in England having tea with a hot English guy, right?””

— May Lee-Yang, Hmong playwright and performer

Lee-Yang also included books like The House on Mango Street and authors like Dean Koontz and Amanda Hocking to her list of influential literature.

Lee-Yang proceeded to share stories of her childhood, documenting her liberating transition from formal, scholarly writing to opinionated, memoir writing “with heart”. Using this approachable writing style, she has written several plays over her career. She cited Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman, Stir-Fried Pop Culture, and The Child’s House in her presentation. Since moving from a Thailand refugee camp to Saint Paul, MN as a baby, Lee-Yang has grown into an esteemed writer and performer, using her bicultural background to discuss the lives of Hmong women.

May Lee-Yang discusses her premier play "Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman".
Sophie Jaro
May Lee-Yang discusses her premier play “Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman”.

Twin Cities Metro Magazine hails her as “on her way to becoming one of the most powerful and colorful voices in local theater.”

More of her written work and performance can be found with producers Mu Performing Arts at the Center for Hmong Art and Talent or find May Lee-Yang on Facebook.