Chapter 19 & Book Overview

In the last chapter, The Sacrifice, we are reminded of the extend the Hmong culture influences the Lee’s life. The chapter describes the sacrificial ceremony of two pigs done by a txiv neeb the Lee’s invite in their home. Two pigs are sacrificed, one to represent the healing of the Lee family and another for Lia specifically. A Hmong feast is also prepared for the ceremony, as well as “spirit money” which are pieces of paper used to guide the pig’s souls through the afterlife. To represent the bond between the pig and the family, the txiv neeb ties a cord from the family to the pig before killing it. For Lia, both the second pig and a chicken are sacrificed. To end the ritual Lia is brought to her bedroom after having the blood of the pig placed on her back while the txiv neeb performs a series of chants to help guide Lia’s soul back to her body. I believe that this was an appropriate way to end this novel. Just as it began talking about the Hmong traditions and specifically how they interpret and treat illness, we end with Lia’s life essentially in the hands of a txiv neeb and the Hmong spirits. Even though Foua and Nao Kao trusted western medicine enough to take Lia to the hospital and to a degree work with the doctors as best they could to help Lia, their relationship to their culture and belief in its spiritual strength was what they believed in most at the end of the day.

Overall, this book is a great real-world example of what the healthcare world looks like from a minority perspective and both how much the United States healthcare system has developed since Lia’s story took place and how much it still needs to change. What frustrated me most with this novel is the lack of communication between the Lee’s and the doctors at MCMC. The many problems that arose between the Lee’s and Lia’s doctors could have been solved through asking questions and listening to each other. The way the novel is written made me want to place blame on either the doctors or the Lee’s for this lack of communication, however reading this book alongside the many articles and discussions we have had in class has shown me that the blame is on the way society is constructed. In order to combat the miscommunication problems as seen in this novel, there needs to be an emphasis on cultural competency training for health care providers and a better general knowledge of health disparities for all people.

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