Chapters 15 & 16

Chapter 15 talks about the Lee’s life after the doctor’s released Lia from their care, thinking that she would die. However, despite having severe brain damage, Lia lived. While Lia’s condition changed significantly, the Lee’s believed that “their behavior as parents had not changed in the slightest” (pg. 214). In fact, the parents went above and beyond to care for Lia in the best way they knew how. It may have been different than what the doctors would recommend, but this chapter shows how dedicated Foua and Nao Kao are as parents. Even the doctors had little to say at this point about their parenting. It is interesting that when the doctors could rely on their knowledge Western medicine and were convinced that was the only way, they were beyond frustrated with the Lee’s; but now that they tried everything biomedicine has to offer, and it is out of their hands, they are willing to relinquish control.

Another interesting part of Chapter 15 was about Martin Kilgore. It seemed to me that he had a kind of savior complex. He boasts about knowing so much about the Hmong people and was relatively educated on their culture and history. The way he interacted with the Lee family showed that while his intention was to help them, or “save” them, he was misunderstanding them entirely. At the end he said “I gave them my full shot…You saw how patiently I explained things to them…I do the best I can” (pg. 224), as he was some sort of martyr for trying understand them, or trying to get them to understand him. For someone who claims to know so much about the culture, he still referred to concepts they didn’t understand and used tactics that were very misguided.

Chapter 16 described why the Hmong settled in Merced, how the citizens of Merced feel about them, and the various policies and institutions at play. A particularly interesting part was the warm welcome they received at the Naturalization Ceremony, where the judge told them that in America, they could practice any religion they want and that they have the same opportunity as the person sitting next to them (pg. 234-5). This, as we know, is not always the case but rather is only the case for a specific group of people. On the same page, there is an example of the xenophobia in Merced, and someone claiming that Merced’s reaction to the Hmong is “not a matter of racism” (pg. 235). All of this to say/show that denying difference and disparity in protection of one’s own privilege, is in fact a matter of racism.


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