Chapter 9 discusses Lia’s homecoming and the traditional celebration that came with it. The main Hmong tradition discussed is animal sacrifice, in this particular case, sacrificing a cow. They sacrifice the cow because it is a “sacred act performed with “respect and reverence'” and to Lia’s benefit, it will “bolster her health”. The importance of this sacred act is apparent based on how much money the Lee’s are willing to spend on this ceremony for their daughter. What I found most interesting in this chapter was how differently the act of killing animals was talked about in respect to Hmong opposed to in American culture. When talking about Hmong tradition, the word “sacrifice” was used countless times, however when talking about American culture of eating animals the word “kill” is used multiple times. “Sacrifice” is a much more gentle word than “kill” and I believe because the Hmong are killing animals for traditional purposes it is perceived to be much less violent then when Animals are killed for the purpose of being eaten in American culture. This chapter gave me a new appreciation and understanding of the traditional component behind sacrificing animals.
Chapter 10 gave more information about Hmong culture and history. Just when I thought I knew everything about the Hmong, this Chapter talks about the history of the Hmong during the Vietman War. It talked about where they lived, their work, and their position against the communists during this time. In addition, I was very surprised to read that the Hmong collaborated with the United States throughout the course of their history. Yes, there has been collaboration between the US and Hmong in this book (the medical systems), but it has mostly talked about the tension between the contrasting views. Contrastingly, this chapter offers instances of collaboration and agreement between the Hmong and the United States, for example, in defending the Royal Lao government.
These chapters relate very closely to what I am learning about in my Spanish Literature class. In class we are discussing the culture of many different indigineous groups in Spain and trying to understand the traditions that are most important to them. When reading these chapters in the novel I couldn’t help but think of a poem we read this week in class. We read about the Nahua people and their religious traditions and symbols which also involve sacrificing animals. In the poem we read, it talked about the beauty and healing of the birds which strikes me as very similar to the healing the Hmong culture sees when sacrificing the cow. Every culture is unique and beautiful in its own way and the more I learn, the more interesting I find it to compare and contrast my own culture, the Hmong culture, and many cultures of the indigineous people in Spain.