I have a confession to make: I have never been a history scholar. There are certain periods of history that interest me (the Harlem Renaissance, for eI have a confession to make: I have never been a history scholar. There are certain periods of history that interest me (the Harlem Renaissance, for example), but those are few in number, and normally don't coincide with anything reinforced in high school or college. I heard the author of this book interviewed on NPR, and I know that I had to read it. It contains the history of places that I (unfortunately) knew very little about, but because the author's own adventures were the focus of the book, I remained constantly engaged. Sometimes I still have to trick myself into learning something. My only criticism is that the author's Jewish descent was mentioned more than necessary. I understand that he is Jewish, and that he expected to be met with prejudice, but this same scenario occurs several times throughout the book. He did, at least, make the point that most of the countries he visited were anti-America, but NOT anti-Americans. And most of all, he made me want to visit a number of countries that had previously just seemed scary to me. ...more
Anne Fadiman addresses a number of difficult topics in her depiction of a Hmong couple's quest to restore the soul to their child. While I consider myAnne Fadiman addresses a number of difficult topics in her depiction of a Hmong couple's quest to restore the soul to their child. While I consider myself a culturally sensitive individual, having been raised in a family of doctors and nurses, I have long held the conviction that the world's best doctors (whether imported or native) tread on American soil. Reading Fadiman's account (which sometimes includes actual excerpts from the patient's charts), I was forced to take a hard look at my assumptions. In the course of reading this book, I have redefined my idea of what constitutes a good doctor.
Fadiman spent hundreds of hours interviewing doctors, social workers, members of the Hmong community--anyone who was somehow involved in Lia Lee's medical nightmare. She pored over years of medical records, trying to make sense of the events that caused a spirited, loving toddler to slowly devolve into a vegetative state. What she found was that the doctors' orders, prescribed medications, hospital care, etc., were all based on a number of Western assumptions that did not take the family's (and child's) best interests into consideration. No attempt was made to understand how the family saw the disease or what efforts they were making on their own to address the situation. More than a translator, what doctors and other professionals involved in Lia's case needed was a "cultural broker" who could have stepped in and possibly saved Lia's brain from further deterioration.
Fadiman's book is a difficult read, not because of specialized vocabulary or lofty philosophical concepts, but because there comes a point when the reader realizes that the barriers faced by those involved were much more cultural than they were linguistic. In a very real way, the Lees inhabited a different world than the doctors, and vice-versa. Each assumed that their way was best, and neither made a genuine effort to understand the other's motivations, much less their logic. In the end, there was no simple solution to their plight, but more mutual respect and understanding of the differences between the cultures would have benefitted everyone involved.
If there is a moral to Fadiman's work, it may be this: The best doctors are not those who know the most, but rather those who admit what they do not know, and try to understand the full picture. Good doctors may treat the disease, but the best doctors treat the individual. ...more
When I started reading this book, I assumed that it was largely fictional. But as I really started to enter the author's world, I discovered that I knWhen I started reading this book, I assumed that it was largely fictional. But as I really started to enter the author's world, I discovered that I knew this place, this area, and in fact, people very much like these folks. From the Dodge Aspen (which my chain-smoking mother, who was prone to saying things like, "These eggs are invading my psyche," also drove) to the strange living situation that wasn't so far from some "families" with which I was familiar...I realized that Augusten's experiences were only slightly more bizarre than those of my friends. Which made sense, because he was moved to actually write about them.
Yes, some events detailed in this work were unsettling. But that is part of what makes it so compelling. Art is often unsettling, and the folks who complain about this book because it takes them outside of their comfort zones should probably have done a wee bit of research before reading...or taken another class, since it sounds as though for many of them the memoir was compulsory (and as we all know, even the most enjoyable works become daunting endeavors when we are forced to read them).
I've started reading _Dry_, and since I am in grad school to be a substance abuse counselor, I am finding it useful, as well as interesting. Still, I have a feeling I will prefer the first novel, for its excellent depiction of troubled, good people, as well as the occasional feelings of nostalgia I encountered. This may very well be the best example I have seen of how most things in life fall into the gray, fuzzy area of being neither good nor bad, but for what we make of them....more
I really enjoyed the first 75% of this book (I can be precise, since I read it on my Kindle!). The last 25% is an Iranian folktale, but having no prioI really enjoyed the first 75% of this book (I can be precise, since I read it on my Kindle!). The last 25% is an Iranian folktale, but having no prior knowledge of this mythos, I was too overwhelmed with new names/characters to follow the storyline. Granted I got to this bit after staying up late to finish the first 3/4 of the book, so I was pretty sleepy...and also a bit surprised, since I thought the rest of the book would be a synopsis of what has happened since her escape from persecution in Iran. ...more
Reading this for a book club. I don't have any food allergies, so it was an interesting look into the life of someone who has to think before eating--Reading this for a book club. I don't have any food allergies, so it was an interesting look into the life of someone who has to think before eating--or even touching--most food. Since I have friends with severe food allergies, it made me appreciate their plight a little more...even as it made me question how food is prepared in industrial kitchens, and how little some restaurant staffers seem to know about the contents of the food they serve....more