Chapter 19 & Book Overview

I was kind of surprised by the ending of this novel. Chapter 19 discussed the sacrifice of the pig at the Lee’s house. The twiv neeb comes to the house to perform the ceremony. This ceremony seemed very intriguing and meaningful. I was shocked that it was able to span an entire chapter of the book. I was surprised that this is the way the author chose to end the novel. I was expecting some sort of plot twist or change in Lia’s condition but instead the ceremony did not change her condition and she remained in the same vegetative state. One thing I did appreciate from this chapter was how deep their culture is. The fact that the author chose to write about his for a whole chapter illuminated how important it was to them and generally how important their Hmong culture is to them. There was a comment about how if anyone walked by they would probably be concerned about a dead pig lying in the room with people surrounding it, but the Hmong do not care. They have such a rich culture and believe so passionately in that and I think that is one of the many aspects I respect about the Lee family.

After finishing this chapter I was curious so I read the authors afterword. I was happy and shocked to hear that Lia was still alive. The book was written over 15 years ago and Lia was still in generally the same state. The author also made an interesting point that I was very pleased to read about. She mentioned how many of the practices and rules regarding cultural differences have changed since she wrote the book. She was proud of how much has changed for the better since she wrote the book. At most hospitals now, many cultural rituals are able to be performed as long as they do not involve fire or loud noises. It seems that since the book was written, the medical field has become a lot more understanding of other cultures and open to using their traditions along with western medicine. I was very happy to read this.

I really enjoyed this novel. While at times I wish there was more about Lia’s story and less about Hmong background, looking back on the book I am happy that the author gave us this background regarding their culture. It is a culture that I had never heard of or studied before and therefore I learned a lot from reading this book. Not only did I learn about their culture, but I think this book gave me an understanding as to the greater problems in our medical system regarding culture. As someone that is hoping to be a doctor someday, it made me more aware of this problem and I am hopefully that when I am practicing I will try my very best to try to understand other’s culture and make sure they are understanding ours. If each health care professional did their part in bridging this gap between cultures, I think both sides would benefit greatly.


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