The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (Google eBook)

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Macmillan, Sep 30, 1998 - Social Science - 352 pages
1570 Reviews

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness aand healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, qaug dab peg--the spirit catches you and you fall down--and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.


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The ethnographic research is thorough and educational. - Goodreads
An important book that was difficult to read. - Goodreads
Loved this book - fascinating subject, great writing. - Goodreads
Well written insight into Laotian cultural. - Goodreads
The author's writing got in the way of the story. - Goodreads
Loved the story telling that Fadiman gives. - Goodreads

Review: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

User Review  - Hannah - Goodreads

An ethnography focusing on medical anthropology as it applies to a family of Hmong refugee immigrants. I liked both the writing and story itself... you get caught up in the lives of the characters. One of those books that doesn't feel like school work. :) Read full review

Review: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

User Review  - Suzanne - Goodreads

This book taught me about a people and culture of which I knew nothing. It also helped expand my point of view as someone in the medical field. Something of worth to have gained. Read full review

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Fish Soup I
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down I
Do Doctors Eat Brains? I
Take as Directed I
HighVelocity Transcortical Lead Therapy I
Government Property I
Foua and Nao Kao I
A Little Medicine and a Little Neeb
The Melting Pot I
Gold and Dross I
Why Did They Pick Merced? I
The Eight Questions I
The Life or the Soul I
TheSaaifice I
Note on Hmong Orthography Pronunciation and Quotations I
Notes on Sources I

War I
The Big One I
Flight I
CodeX I
Bibliography I
Acknowledgments I
Index I

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About the author (1998)

Anne Fadiman is the author of two essay collections, At Large and At Small and Ex Libris, and the editor of Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down received a National Book Critics Circle Award, an L.A. Times Book Prize, and a Salon Book Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications. She is the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale.

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