Earlier this month, Pa Ying Vang '17 discovered that she was one of ten finalists out of over 100 submissions from around the world for the 2016 Very, Very, Short, Short Stories Contest. Organized by the Sarah Lawrence College as part of the annual Sarah Awards, contestants submitted audio fiction pieces up to three minutes long — not unlike a very short podcast.
"It's a strange kind of justice." With this prompt provided by the contest, Pa Ying Vang converted these words into a poignant motif. She paints a vivid and haunting world with only sound, creating a feast for the ears that instantly transports the listener into the experience of a war-fleeing refugee. Already a veteran of the trade thanks to her experience at radiohere and as a SisterStory oral historian, Vang crafted her piece on-and-off over the course of six months.
Vang based the piece on the memories and stories of her grandparents, Hmong refugees who fled war in their country. "I wanted to relate them in a way that youngsters nowadays can listen and understand that this is what their parents and grandparents went through to get them here."
In her piece, Vang also enlisted the vocal contributions of her aunt, who studies at St. Kate's as well. "If it was just my voice, I couldn't fully portray the message — I wanted another person's voice there to add more depth to the story," she explains.
Vang says that although her three-minute work, titled "Noir" for the dark atmosphere it evokes, reflects the legacy of many Hmong immigrants in its first half, the second half speaks more universally to the experience of many war refugees who take refuge in the United States, only to be greeted differently than expected.
"Here's our story. We're here," Vang says. "We want you to listen. This is what we have gone through and are going through."
The winner of the 2016 Very, Very, Short, Short Stories Contest, announced today, is David Garland for "Bitterly Cold."