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

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Macmillan, Sep 30, 1998 - Social Science - 352 pages
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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
The author's writing got in the way of the story. - Goodreads
Easy to read, and a definite page turner. - Goodreads
An amazing insight into cultural clashes and medicine. - Goodreads
Loved the story telling that Fadiman gives. - Goodreads
It was a good pop introduction to the hmong culture. - Goodreads

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

User Review  - Amy - Goodreads

Took me forever to work my way through this. Well researched but read more like a thesis than a good story which was a shame with so much to learn. Despite that I think back on the book often as it ... 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  - Jessica Hall - Goodreads

Eye opening and a book I will keep in my library. Even though I felt conflicted through most of this book and through Lia Lee's treatment, I know after reading how important it is to have cultural ... Read full review

All 120 reviews »

Contents

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Copyright

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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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