Unwilling to withstand the supposed ‘negligence’ of the Lees towards Lia, Neil Ernst, their doctor, got a court mandated order for Lia to be placed in foster care where she will be given her medication as directed. With no warning, Lia was taken from her parents and placed in the care of a loving couple who recall Lia with affection despite her aggressive, sometimes strange and impolite behavior. Here, Lia was finally given a concrete diagnosis and was placed on a single medication, which the Lees were able to adapt to and could finally get Lia back. Soon after this situation, the author was able to gain the trust of the Hmong by infiltrating their culture using their culture, a tactic MCMC had not used before. She provides us with an insight about the various skills and robust social life of the Hmong, finally lifting them out of the cult-like perception, and placing them in a more familial setting.
As I read further into the story, I find myself connecting more to the hospital staff than the Lees. While I understand their perspective, farm families now forced to find an alternate means of life in a country where you do not understand the culture or the language, the lack of cooperation in a state of refuge where they have been given housing, food and free healthcare is frustrating. Perhaps the whole situation appears similar to the other tyranny the Hmong have been through, resulting in the desperate cling to their culture and I sympathize when the naming ceremony is performed, or when the placenta is still buried under the floor or when they choose to cure smaller illnesses using home grown plants. However, in this case, the parents chose to take Lia to the hospital every time and yet chose not to follow most of their directions. If the ‘surrender’ to western medicine was already underway, why not make the effort to adapt beyond just a change in attire?
I suppose my frustration also stems from the fact that the population seemed to respect the attitude of the popular psychiatrist where she acknowledged her difference and asked to be excused for it, without changing herself. I feel like that was not reciprocal, that instead of using the occasional translator to convey their feelings and thoughts, the Lees chose to alienate them and in general, elicit hostility. I see the author’s viewpoints, if others were seemingly nice to the Hmong, maybe the favor would be returned. However, when it comes to life or death situation like in Lia’s case, the extent of nice-ness needed to be curbed if treatment was to be delivered.
I think I was upset by the idea that the effort seemed to be immensely one-sided in this whole situation. Or perhaps, only that aspect was shown in the book, as the author may have managed to get more interviews from the rational American players in the story than the Hmong, who were more emotionally driven given the personal displacement.