Delve Deeper into The Betrayal

A film by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath

This multi-media resource list, compiled by Shaun Briley of the San Diego Public Library includes books, films and other materials related to the issues presented in the film The Betrayal.

Filmed over 23 years, The Betrayal is the Academy Award nominated directorial debut of renowned cinematographer Ellen Kuras in a unique collaboration with the film's subject and co-director, Thavisouk ("Thavi") Phrasavath.

After the U.S. government waged a secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War, Thavi's father and thousands of other Laotians who had fought alongside American forces were abandoned and left to face imprisonment or execution.

Hoping to find safety, Thavi's family made a harrowing escape to America, where they discovered a different kind of war. Weaving ancient prophecy with personal testimony and stunning imagery, The Betrayal is a story of survival and the resilient bonds of family. A Diverse Voices Project co-production with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB); funded in part by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM). An Official Selection of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.


Chan, Sucheng. Hmong Means Free: Life in Laos and America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994. A collection of personal accounts taken from three different generations, giving a picture of life in Laos before and during the Communist rule and as refugees in America.

Conboy, Kenneth. Shadow War: the CIA's Secret War in Laos. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 1995. A well researched history of the CIA's covert paramilitary operation in Laos.

Dakin, Brett. Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos. Bangkok: Asia Books, 2008. Life in contemporary Laos described by an American who spent two years working there.

Dommen, Arthur J. Conflict in Laos: the politics of Neutralization. New York: Praeger, 1971. An extremely detailed account of the political climate in Laos, mainly after the 1954 Geneva Conference. The publication incorporates Western concerns as well as those of North Vietnamese and Chinese Communist forces during this era.

English, T.J. Born to Kill: America's Most Notorious Vietnamese Gang, and the Changing Face of Organized Crime. New York: William Morrow, 1995. The story of a youth gang made up of teenage refugees who targeted other Asian groups.

Evans, Grant. A Short History of Laos: The Land in Between. Crows Nest NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2003. An introduction to the history of Laos from ancient times up to the present.

Evans, Grant. The Politics of Ritual and Remembrance, Laos Since 1975. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1998. A political and anthropological study of ritual and symbolic change in Laos from the time of the 1975 revolution.

Faderman, Lillian. I Begin My Life All Over: The Hmong and the American Immigrant Experience. Boston, Beacon Press, 1999. Oral histories of Hmong refugees from Laos, shedding light on the impact on their lives of U.S. involvement in the region.

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. The clash of cultural and medical traditions is described in this book about an epileptic member of the large Laotian community in Merced, California.

Hamilton-Merritt, Jane. Tragic Mountains: the Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. This book tells the recent history of the Hmong of Laos and chronicles the terrible price inflicted on them by the victorious communists because of their alliance with the U.S.

Hathorn, Reginald. Here There are Tigers: the Secret Air War in Laos, 1968-69. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008. A U.S. Air Force pilot who flew missions with the Lao Army describes his experiences fighting a war that was not officially acknowledged.

Hein, Jeremy. From Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia: A Refugee Experience in the United States. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995. Details the impact of American life and culture on refugees from the conflicts in Southeast Asia.

Langer, Paul F and Zasloff, Joseph Jermiah. North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao: Partners in the Struggle for Laos. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970. Discusses the collaboration between the North Vietnamese and Laotian communists.

Leary, William M. Perilous Missions. Civil Air Transport and CIA Covert Operations in Asia. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002. Leary traces the history of the Civil Air Transports as well as the CAT’s pivotal role in the CIA secret air war in Laos during the Vietnam War.

Le Bar, Frank M.; Hickey, Gerald C.; and Musgrave, John K. Ethnic Groups of Mainland Southeast Asia. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1964. A compendium of information about 150+ tribes and minority groups in Southeast Asia, organized by area and language.

Le Bar, Frank M., and Suddard, Adrienne (eds.) Laos: Its People, Its Society, Its Culture. New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1950. A survey of Laotian society and culture, unifying a diverse range of areas of study.

Ling, Huping. Emerging Voices: Experiences of Underrepresented Asian Americans. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press 2008. This book fills a gap in scholarly work on the lives of Asian Americans by focusing on smaller groups such as those of Laotian, Burmese and Thai origin.

Littauer, Raphael and Uphoff, Norman, eds. The Air War in Indochina. Air Study War Group, Cornell University. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1971. An analytical study of U.S. involvement in a secret air war over Laos during the years of 1965-1971.

Minh-Ha, Trinh T. Framer Framed. New York, NY: Rutledge: 1992. A compilation of the scripts of three of Vietnamese filmmaker Minh-Ha’s most provocative films, as well as interviews with theorists and critics discussing, among other topics, the plights of refugees and exiles that are addressed in the films.

Morrison, Gayle L. Sky is Falling: an Oral History of the CIA's Evacuation of the Hmong from Laos. Jefferson, NC: Mcfarland, 2007. Firsthand accounts of the evacuation of more than 2,500 Hmong officers, soldiers and family members who had cooperated with the Americans before the country fell to communism.

Nguyen, Lucy Hong Nhiem. The Far East Comes Near: Autobiographical Accounts of Southeast Asian Students in America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. Twenty-five students who fled upheavals in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos tell their stories of flight, camps and the difficulties of settling in America.

Ong, Aihwa. Buddha is Hiding: Refugees, Citizenship, the New America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Ong takes readers on an ethnographic journey in this book, which details the experiences and cultural difficulties of Cambodian refugees in America.

Osborne, Milton E. The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000. This book describes the rich history of the Mekong River from the fifth century to the present day.

Parker, James E. Covert Ops: the CIA's Secret War in Laos. New York: St. Martin's, 1997. Parker chronicles the CIA’s use of irregular forces to drive the North Vietnamese out of Laos.

Proudfoot, Robert. Even the Birds Don't Sound the Same Here: the Laotian Refugees' Search for Heart in American Culture. New York: P. Lang, 1990. This book highlights the emotions and cultural conflicts that make up the Laotian refugee experience in America.

Pyle, Richard. Lost over Laos: a True Story of Tragedy, Mystery, and Friendship. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003. The story of a combat journalist killed during the U.S. intervention in Laos and of those who went back to uncover what happened to him.

Quincy, Keith. Harvesting Pa Chay's Wheat: the Hmong and America's Secret war in Laos. Spokane, Wash.: Eastern Washington University Press, 2000. Life for 100,000 Laotians in Thai refugee camps is among the topics covered in this account of what happened to the Hmong as a result of helping America fight the North Vietnamese.

Rantala, Judy Austin. Laos: Caught in the Web: the Vietnam War years. Honolulu, Hawaii: Anoai Press, 2004. In this book, Rantala follows a Laotian family from before the war, through a Communist re-education camp and finally to their resettlement in America.

Robbins, Christopher. The Ravens. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1987. A historical account of the role of U.S. Air Force forward air-controllers, known as ravens, during the secret war in Laos and how their story typified the U.S. strategy throughout South East Asia at that time.

Rumbaut, Rubén G. Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. A collection of essays by leading scholars on how the children of immigrants adapt to becoming American.

Rushdie, Salman. Imaginary Homelands, Essays and Criticism 1981-1991. London: Granta Books, 1991. The 75 essays and reviews included in this collection deal with a wide range of political, literary and religious subject matter, many of which are centred around the theme of the migrant experience.

Sage, William W. and Henchy, Judith A.N. (comp.) Laos, A Bibliography. Singapore: Library Bulletin/Institute of Southeast Asian Studies; no. 16. 1986. This bibliography provides roughly 2,500 references concerning Laos, thus providing a well-rounded sample of Western scholarship on the topic.

Said, Edward. Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2000. A collection of critical essays showcasing Said’s formative influence in the field of literary criticism, including his famous essay “Reflections of Exile” in which he considers his own fate as an Exile as well as that of the Palestinian people.

Scott, Joanna C. Indochina's Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, 1989. Twenty-two memoirs about flight from the communists, which were recorded at a refugee processing centre prior to reaching America.

Simpson, John, ed. The Oxford Book of Exile. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1995. This anthology of excerpts and essays that Simpson compiles pushes the boundaries of the meaning of the term “exile.”

Stuart-Fox, Martin. A History of Laos. Cambridge, UK; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2008. A comprehensive history of Laos by a leading expert in the subject.

Warner, Roger. Back Fire. The CIA’s Secret War in Laos and Its Link to the War in Vietnam. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1995. Warner provides a history of CIA involvement in Laos from the early 1960s through 1973 by reconstructing a more intimate narrative of the men directly responsible for the secret war.

Weiner, Tim. Legacy of Ashes. The History of the CIA. New York, NY: Doubleday, 2007. This is a compilation of archival research and interviews with CIA and government insiders that establishes a solid and credible indictment of the CIA as well as American Intelligence policy throughout history.

Yang, Kao Kalia. The Latehomecomer: a Hmong Family Memoir. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2008. The author weaves Hmong folklore and culture into this story of her family’s refugee status in America and discovering that few know about Laos or Laotian/U.S. history.


Cotterill, Colin. The Coroner's Lunch. New York: Soho Press, 2004. The adventures of a Paris trained doctor who stays behind when the Communist Pathet Lao takes over Laos.
Cotterill, Colin. Thirty-three teeth. New York: Soho Press, 2005. A coroner tries to solve mysterious deaths after the Pathet Lao come to power and send the royal family into secret exile.

Livo, Norma J. and Cha, Dia. Folk Stories of the Hmong: Peoples of Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1991. A collection of twenty-seven traditional Hmong folk tales.

Moua, Mai Neng. Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2002. First and second generation immigrants use fiction to describe their experiences of being Hmong in America.

Uthin, Bunnyavong. Mother's Beloved: Stories from Laos. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999. A collection of short stories by one of the most prominent contemporary writers in Laos.


Caputo, Philip. 10,000 Days of Thunder: a History of the Vietnam War. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005. A history of the Vietnam War for younger readers, written by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.

Cha, Dia et al. Dia's Story Cloth. New York: Lee & Low Books, 1996. The life of the author and her family in Laos and then America is recounted on the story cloth made for her by her aunt.

Diamond, Judith. Laos. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1989. A children’s book that details the history, culture and geography of Laos.

Millett, Sandra. The Hmong of Southeast Asia. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Co, 2001. A colourful and detailed look at the lifestyle and culture of the Hmong, suitable for either elementary or junior high school.


Gilmore, Dorina K. Lazo and Hires, Josh. A Stone in the Soup: a Hmong Girl's Journey to the United States. Fresno, CA: Poppy Lane Pub, 2006. This book interweaves the story of a young Laotian immigrant with a traditional Laotian fable.

Shea, Pegi Deitz. Tangled Threads: a Hmong girl's story. New York: Clarion Books, 2003. A story about a thirteen year old Laotian who travels with her grandmother from a refugee camp in Thailand to America and their subsequent problems adapting to a new way of life.


Becoming American. Directed by Ken Levine and Ivory Waterworth Levine. New Day Films, 2005. TRT: 45 min. Shot in 1983, this documentary follows a Hmong refugee family from Laos as they encounter culture shock and prejudice in America.

Blue Collar and Buddha. Directed by Taggart Siegel and Kati Johnson. Collective Eye, DVD release 2008. TRT: 57 mins. A film originally released in 1987 about a Buddhist temple built by Laotian refugees on the outskirts of a blue collar American town.

Kelly Loves Tony. Directed by Spencer Nakasako. CAAM, 1998. TRT: 57 min. She's a straight-A student; he's trying to leave gang life behind. A camcorder becomes both witness and confidante for these markedly singular yet utterly typical teens as they self-document the trials of growing up too fast and too soon in urban America.

Moving Mountains: the Story of the Yiu Mien. Directed by Elaine Velazquez, 1989. TRT: 58 mins. This film about the Yiu Mien people of Laos, who settled in the Pacific Northwest after the Vietnam War, interweaves their lives in the U.S. with rare archival footage shot in their homeland.
Watch the full streaming film online:,149

Vietnam: A Television History. WGBH, Boston, 1983. A six-year project from conception to completion, the film carefully analyzes the costs and consequences of a controversial but intriguing war. The 13-part series includes a section on Laos and Cambodia.