In these first two chapters, the author sets the stage by introducing us to the family whose journey we will be following for the rest of the chapters to come. They’re Hmong, a marginalized group of people, in East Asia. This family settled in Laos. From the very beginning, the author reveals just how different this culture is from those of the West, particularly regarding medicine. I’m still shocked that Foua, the mother, is able to give birth by herself, in almost complete silence. Not only are the births stark opposites to those that occur in the States, but even the pregnancies. Hmong women know exactly how to remain in tune with their bodies and cravings to have a successful pregnancy. In the next chapter, the author gives us some historical context, as is fitting with Hmong tradition because they believe that all stories begin further than one would think and things are more connected than what seems obvious.
We learned more about how the Hmong had been persecuted and I couldn’t help but think about how similar their persecution was to that of the Native Americans in the United States. The Chinese had dehumanized the Hmong by calling them barbarians and even attempted to “civilize” them- just like Americans did. Eventually, the large portion of the Hmong left their homes because of this persecution. It’s interesting because it just speaks to the fact that race isn’t fixed and those in power simply appraise the differences of others and create a narrative justifying their subsequent persecution because of this difference. It shows that demonizing those who are different and persecuting them is universal. Finally, I feel like this persecution and historical context will set the stage for what’s yet to come with culturally incompetent doctors in the United States.
One question that I’m left with is where is exactly is the line between allowing a culture to practice their own beliefs (like burying the placenta) and not allowing them to do so for whatever reason? This is a loaded question and I think it will come up again and again throughout the semester, but I feel like, in the West, we like to believe that our medicine is the only truth when that’s obviously not the case.