Finding Home in a Foreign Land

Pao Lor PhD’01 chronicles his American journey in Modern Jungles: A Hmong Refugee’s Childhood Story of Survival.

Pao Lor

At age five, Lor joined thousands of Hmong people fleeing Laos to escape persecution. Daniel Moore

Born in a small farming village in Laos, Pao Lor PhD’01 was destined to be a Hmong clan leader, wedding negotiator, or shaman. This all changed when Laos fell to a Communist regime following the Vietnam War. At the age of five, Lor joined the thousands of Hmong people fleeing the country to escape persecution. Lor made it safely to Thailand; his parents did not.

Cover of book, Modern Jungles

Wisconsin Historical Society Press

An orphan and a refugee, Lor spent two years in Thai refugee camps before boarding a plane to the United States, a place he envisioned brimming with the opportunity his parents had once wanted for him. In his book Modern Jungles: A Hmong Refugee’s Childhood Story of Survival, Lor takes readers through his experience navigating the foreign “jungles” he found in his new home and grappling with the racism that was pervasive in communities that saw large influxes of Hmong refugees in the 1970s. Despite it all, he remained resilient.

Modern Jungles shines a light on experiences that many of our Wisconsin neighbors have lived through but that are unfamiliar to most of us,” wrote Kate Thompson of the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, the book’s publisher, in an email to Spectrum News 1 in April. “At the same time, it includes themes everyone can relate to: coming of age, overcoming hardship, and seeking a place in the world where we feel we belong.”

Lor is the Patricia Wood Baer Professor and chairperson of the Professional Program in Education in the College of Health, Education, and Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay.

Published in the Fall 2021 issue


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