Chapter 9 continues detailing the story of Lia’s return home and her continued epileptic seizures. The Lee’s sacrificed a cow following Lia’s return home, a traditional way of honoring someone in the Hmong culture. The Lee’s even spent $300 to purchase the cow, which equates to 3 months of Lia’s disability checks. Despite being low on income, this tradition is not one in which the Lee’s would hesitate in spending a large sum of money. I thought it was really interesting reading about the ban of killing animals in sacrificial rituals. Florida implemented a law which made it illegal to kill animals in such acts, however, the law was quickly overturned. Additionally, there were rumors that ran rampant among the Hmong culture and their tradition to sacrifice animals. In fact, there was an observation that there was a scarcity of dogs and cats in Mercer. There rumors were only exacerbated when a fireman found a pig in the freezer of a Hmong home, but mistakenly reported it as a dog. I thought these details of the story were very interesting. I have heard jokes and stereotypes about certain Asian American cultures killing and eating cats and dogs, but did not understand the history and importance behind such tradition. Even though Hmongs do not kill cats and dogs, other animals are used in their rituals, such as chickens and cows.
The extent of Lia’s neurological deficits continued to heighten upon her arrival home. Tasks that once seem simple for Lia, such as saying hello and counting in English, were tasks that she could no longer complete. Even though Lia was regularly taking her medications, her parents sought additional Hmong remedies that they believed would heal her. During this time, no medical provider took the time or patience to ask the Lee’s what they were doing at home to heal Lia. One of the only professionals who acted as a patient advocate for Lia, was Jeanne Hilt. Jeanne was able to form a trusting relationship with the Lee’s.
I should expect it coming now, as Chapter 10 then delves into the history of the Hmongs during the Vietnam War. The Hmongs were farmers, in which everyone did the same work and no one was above another. They farmed their own food to eat, in fact, the only source of income from their farming was in opium poppy. They only kept ten percent of the opium, and then sold the rest for silver and other jewelry.
Most Americans know about the Vietnam War (hopefully), however, most are unware of the U.S. conflict in Laos. This conflict in called the “quiet war”, but not because this war did not inflict any damage. In fact, the conflict in Laos just did minimal harm to Americans. I was astounded at the remark made by undersecretary of the state, U. Alex Johnson, as he said “the operation in Laos is something of which we can be proud Americans – it involved virtually no American casualties”. He further explains that the operation was cost-effective, implying that the the Hmong lives came cheap. In fact, the 30,000 Hmong army men were paid an average of $3 per month. Shortly after the Paris Agreement was signed, the U.S. discontinued their relief program. I just thought this chapter in the book exemplified another instance in which pieces of American history that we are not proud of are simply excluded from our textbooks. All in all, really enjoying this book!