Chapter 9 - A Little Medicine and a Little Neeb

When Lia returns home the family is overjoyed to have her in their beds once again. From the period of spring and summer 1986, around the time of her fourth birthday, Peggy Philp noted in Lia’s chart – nothing interesting – but for the Lees it was one of the richest periods in Lia’s life. The first thing they did was sacrifice a cow in her honor. Of course, these ritualized killings appall Americans, and many laws have been passed against any religious group performing such acts. However, the Hmong in Merced just disregarded any laws like this and regularly sacrificed many animals with the exception of dogs which they knew would cause the greatest upheaval among white Americans. However, the author knew that eventually it would all come to light about their sacrifices.


The Lees went ahead with their plans and purchased a cow which they had slaughtered. It was cut up into small pieces and transported to their home. The head was sitting on their front stoop while they preformed the ritual chants. Then, the whole family, friends, and relatives sat down to eat many different dishes with beef as the main ingredient. One of the dishes included “doo-doo soup,” which was made of the cow’s intestine and anything that happened to be in it. It was considered a classic Hmong recipe.

However, the celebratory mood soon began to dissipate as the Lees realized that Lia had been returned to them in damaged condition. She didn’t know people she had known before, and she could speak very little. From their perspective, the courts and the foster care system had made her sicker, but of course, the doctors felt it was due to the damage done when the Lees failed to comply with their orders. They blamed the week she had been allowed to stay with her parents, and they had stopped all meds. This was followed by three grand mal and six petit mal seizures. The author had tried to explain that the Lees believed the doctors had taken Lia from them, because they were angry at the Lees. She also tried to explain the idea of a little medicine and a little neeb, but Peggy and Neil were just puzzled. As a result of Lia’s condition, the Lees stepped up her traditional medicine. The doctors at MCMC would have been surprised to learn that the Hmong actually took their children’s health seriously since they so readily spurned American care. They spent large amounts of their money on such things as amulets. They tried every known cure in their medical library even to the point of changing Lia’s name to Kou on the premise that the dab that stole her soul would be tricked into thinking she was someone else, and the soul could return. They even took her to a shaman in Minnesota for help.

When the author asked Bill Selvidge why the doctors never asked the Hmong how they treated their illnesses, he replied that because they dressed in American clothing, had American driver’s licenses and shopped in supermarkets, it never occurred to the medical staff that they might practice unconventional healing arts. Jeanine Hilt was the only one who ever asked the Lees how they were treating Lia’s developmental delays. She had secured them their disability money and so was held in high esteem. She never described them as closemouthed and dim and she was the only American before the Kordas that the author had ever heard call them Foua and Nao Kao.

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down". TheBestNotes.com. . 09 May 2017
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