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

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
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's review
Apr 24, 2012

it was amazing
Read in April, 2012

In working with my ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)students, we constantly chance upon situations in which our cultural differences are highlighted. Some of these differences cause much laughter, some lead to serious discussions, and some reveal profound differences that causes students from different cultures to react in totally different ways. This book deals with cultural differences that set a family and the American medical community at odds with each other with tragic results. When Lia Lee was brought to the emergency room in Merced, California by her parents, Foua and Nao Koa, misunderstandings began between the family and the medical staff immediately. The Kao family were a part of the Hmong community in Merced. They had moved to the United States from Laos as a result of the Vietnam War and they, like most of the Hmong community, had not assimilated into the American culture. They did not speak or read English and found themselves surrounded by doctors who discovered that their daughter had a progressive form of epilepsy that need aggressive treatment. The Kao family, clinging to their ancient beliefs, believed that their daughter was suffering from quag dab peg--the spirit catches you and you fall down--and felt it was caused by the wandering of her soul. In telling this story, Anne Fadiman is sympathic to both sides--the family and the medical community and concludes that the cultural differences and misunderstandings led to the tragic outcome of this case. A must read for anyone who interacts with people from multicultural backgrounds.

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