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When Mai Neng Moua decides to get married, her mother, a widow, wants the groom to follow Hmong custom and pay a bride price, which both honors the work the bride's family has done in raising a daughter and offers a promise of love and security from the groom's family. Mai Neng, who knows the pain this tradition has caused, says no. Her husband-to-be supports her choice.
What happens next is devastating, and it raises questions about the very meaning of being Hmong in America. The couple refuses to participate in the tshoob, the traditional Hmong marriage ceremony; many members of their families, on both sides, stay away from their church wedding. Months later, the families carry out the tshoob without the wedding couple. But even after the bride price has been paid, Mai Neng finds herself outside of Hmong culture and at odds with her mother, not realizing the full meaning of the customs she has rejected. As she navigates the Hmong world of animism, Christianity, and traditional gender roles, she begins to learn what she has not been taught. Through a trip to Thailand, through hard work in the garden, through the birth of another generation, one strong woman seeks reconciliation with another.