The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures
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-...more
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Don't read any further unless you don't mind knowing the basic story told in this book (there are no spoilers, since this is not a book with a surprise ending, but if you want to keep a completely open mind, stop now) ...
I have wavered between four and five stars for this on ...more
It's an eye-opener on cross-cultural issues, especially those in the medical field, but also in the religious, as the Hmong don't distinguish between the two. In understandable and compelling language ...more
The story is of the treatment of the epileptic child of a Hmong immigrant family in the American health system. The issue is the clash of cultures and the confusing and heartbreaking results. And the takeaway lesson is in how to ...more
Along with a large influx of Hmong, Lia lived in Merced, CA when she experienced her first seizures. The Hmong and their language and their culture were yet virtually unknown and entirely misunderst ...more
The title of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the literal translation of the Hmong words for epilepsy. All doctors know about epilepsy; virtually none know about the Hmong people. They are an ethnic group who lived in China for hundreds of years.
The Hmong have often been thought of as "outsiders." Over the centuries they have resisted taming by various domineering governments and oppressors. ...more
I didn't know anything about Hmong culture and now I do. This book also taught me about the American medical system - it looks strange when you step back.
It would have been a good book for me to read when I was in Japan, too, because it kind of opened me up to the idea that people of other cultures can really be sooo different. It's ...more
But that's not really the point of Fadiman's book: she doesn't condemn anyone, and, in fact, she points out that ...more
More largely, this is the story of a clash between western and eastern cultures, a communication lapse that ultimately ended up hurting the parents of this little girl very profoundly.
Fadiman sets up an epistemological encounters between US doctors and Hmong culture. The life of a young woman is at stake.
The book is well written, well researched, and Fadiman's heart seems to be in the right place.
The book fails however. Ultimately, as hard as she tries, Fadiman cannot overcome her biases. That would be less of a problem if she did not want to come across as "objective."
A touch of theory and a bit of world history might have been enough to take Fadima ...more
Though doctors today more often take courses in cross-cultural awareness in med school, it's still just a small portion of their training, if they get it all. This book is highly rel ...more
Lia Lee and her family were refugees living in Merced, CA when the spirit first caught Lia in this wa ...more
While there are times that it can be dense, it is very well written. Ms. Fadiman writes about the Hmong with incredible gravitas and emotionality. I don't know how she did it but, by the time I finished the book I was all teary. Sure, it could be that I haven't slept in days (finals) but I think it's because of how the s ...more
I appreciated that Fadiman really got into explaining Hmong culture and beliefs towards medicine and disease -- the title ref ...more
It is important to note that this book should be read by those not only interested in anthropology and how medical practices could/should be improved, but also those wanting to learn more about the Silent War in Laos. So many have been written about the war in Vietnam and so few about that in Laos.
How do you teach doctors to feel empathy and love for their patients? Physical contact is one quick ...more
The 150,000 Hmong refugees who came to the United States in the late 1970s arrived in a country and culture that could not have been more foreign to them. The Lee family had escaped their native village in the hills of Laos and settled in Merced California. In July 1982 Foua Yang gave birth to her fourteenth child; Foua and her husband Nao Kao Lee would name the little girl Lia. She was a loved child, tenderly cared ...more
As I read this book, I chose to read the story Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn with our girls. I loved that this folktale helped all of see a small glimpse into the life of the Hmong people, especially before they were forced to flee their life and lands in Laos.
I have to admit that at ...more