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Author Interview: Lisa Hamilton's latest tells the story of a Hmong rice farmer in Fresno

A young girl holds a handful of rice plants on the cover of Lisa Hamilton's book.

The San Joaquin Valley is known for its abundant farmland and strong agricultural economy. But amongst the massive almond and pistachio orchards, a group of Hmong women practice rice farming in a community garden.

The rice they harvest is not commercially consumed, but it holds important cultural significance to the Hmong community.

Using one woman’s story of coming to America, writer Lisa Hamilton unveils this rice farming practice in her book “The Hungry Season: A Journey of War, Love, and Survival.”

Lisa Hamilton
Lisa Hamilton
Lisa Hamilton

In the book, readers meet Ia Moua, a local woman who made impossible decisions for herself and her family as they came to America.

Hamilton spent years harvesting rice alongside Moua, who only speaks Hmong, and hours parsing through translations. The book is a study in resilience and a testament to the power of one woman's strength to move forward.

KVPR’s Elizabeth Arakelian spoke to Hamilton about her reporting process and why she felt Ia’s story was important to tell.

Listen to the conversation by pressing play on the player above.

Local book events

Lisa Hamilton will be in Fresno and Merced this week to discuss "The Hungry Season: A Journey of War, Love, and Survival."

Thursday, March 21, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
How to record oral history workshop
Fresno State University
Library 2206

Thursday, March 21, 5:30 - 7 p.m.
In conversation with Dr. Song Lee
Fresno State University
Fresno, CA

Saturday, March 23, 3 p.m.
In conversation with Seng Alex Vang
Merced County Library
Merced, CA

The events are open to the public and will be live-interpreted in Hmong.

A Valley native, Elizabeth earned her bachelor's degree in English Language Literatures from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her master's degree in journalism from New York University. She has covered a range of beats. Her agriculture reporting for the Turlock Journal earned her a first place award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. While in graduate school she covered the New Hampshire Primary for NBC Owned Television Stations and subsequently worked as a television ratings analyst for the company's business news network, CNBC. Upon returning to California, her role as a higher education public relations professional reconnected her to the Valley's media scene. She is happy to be back to her journalism roots as a local host at KVPR.