Sara'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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Aug 28, 12

bookshelves: genetic-counseling-reading-list
Read from August 22 to 25, 2012

This was required reading for my Genetic Counseling Program. While it doesn't really deal with a genetic disorder (Lia, the main character has epilepsy) it opens up discussion for culture clash in medicine.

The book describes in very extreme and vivid detail the life of Lia Lee, a Hmong child who suffers from terrible seizures. Fadiman neglects to leave ANY details out (part of the reason this book doesn't get 5 stars). The reader hears from all involved in Lia's life, including her two Hmong parents (refugees from Laos), her doctors, her social worker, etc. By the end of the book, you have such a full picture of this sad story and those a part of it.

One of the reasons I especially enjoyed this book was its unbiasedness. The author is very honest about the mistakes of both sides (the Hmong family and the doctors). Sometimes, I was so frustrated with Lia's parents (who are extremely skeptical about Western Medical Practices). Other times, I was in shock at the behavior of the doctors (many of which were insensitive to Hmong traditions and culture). This book challenges the reader to see and understand the actions taken by both sides, even though its conclusion can't really be 'blamed' on any one 'side.'

A bit of a warning - Fadiman goes into extensive detail about Hmong culture, their presence in Merced (1 in 5 Merced citizens are Hmong), the Hmong's involvement in the war, etc, etc, etc. While this detail is sometimes necessary to fully understand the actions taken by Lia's parents, the chapters can become incredibly dense and slow. Often times I found myself very stuck in these chapters. All I can say is, power through, because Lia's sad story is one worth knowing. Also, the last chapters are wonderful and extremely relevant to anyone interested in healthcare in this country.

This is a must-read for anyone going into the healthcare field.
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