The Thao family's struggle to balance the traditional and contemporary in the New World reflects a tension experienced by many immigrant families. While Paja and his wife Yer Vang are eager to hold on to the values, customs and religious practices of their homeland, their children embrace American culture. The older generation struggles with what they would call "soul loss," and what Americans would label "depression," alienated first from their country and now from their own families.
"My parents, especially my mom, was against my friends and Amber. And they wanted me to follow tradition. Like date Asians, have kids with Asians."
"In my culture and my religion we're not supposed to date out of our race. We're supposed to marry Caucasian. My grandparents I know feel strongly about that."
"Now I'm baptized so I'm like Christian right now, but because mostly for our tradition, when the woman gets married, they're supposed to follow what their new family is going through."
-Kia Thao Vang
"Most of the young generation, when they find out that their culture is actually very hard to follow, they start deviating to other paths, they start going towards the American path. They start learning American values."
-Kong Pao Vang
Paja's older children have started families of their own, turning to Christianity and severing ties to their ancient Hmong traditions.
"We don't want to give up our traditions, because when you get old and die, the Christians just say a few prayers, then go on their way. And no one watches over you. We want the drum and the flute to guide us to our destiny. By the time you are old, your children should have made you a funeral coat already. But you can't be sure that they will love you. Just in case my sons and daughters don't love us, I sewed one for Paja and one for myself."
-Yer Vang Thao
"Right now, my family is getting smaller. It's not like back in the old country when we had celebrations, the children always helped out. Now, the kids can't help you. In America, when they finish their education they're going to look for jobs."
The intergenerational rift causes Paja to despair as he struggles to maintain his ancient traditions even while cultural upheaval is occurring in his house and across the Hmong community.