Robbin'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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it was amazing

i read this book for a class i am taking called "human behavior and the social environment." it tells the story of a Hmong family in california with a little girl who has epilepsy. their experience as refugees who are illiterate and unable to speak english, traversing the american medical system ends up tragic. however, the author is really good at giving voice to both sides, the western doctors (impatient, overworked, stubborn, judgmental, dedicated) and the Hmong family (impatient, overworked, stubborn, judgmental, loving). at their wit's end the doctors have the little girl removed from the home and placed into foster care. the foster family not only falls in love with lia (the epileptic toddler) but they fall in love with the family. perhaps, the first and only time in history the foster mother even allows the so-called abusive mother baby-sit her OWN children while she takes lia to one of her appointments. through a series of events lia ends up in a vegetative state (and at that point her epilepsy in her brain dead state is actually cured), and she is returned home to die. but she doesn't. the Hmong family keeps her alive with their love and care, something the doctors had never witnessed. on their own terms, they continue to feed her, bathe her, and watch over her literally 24 hours a day (she sleeps in the bed with the mother every night). she continues to grow with rosy skin and healthy hair, and the Hmong family continues to believe that the western doctors and their medicine actually made her seizures and illness worse. anyone going into the medical/social work/psychology field should read this book.

what could be lost in the story is the background the author gives to the story of the Hmong, a culture and people that have been continuously marginalized and persecuted in every society they have lived in. nomadic to escape assimilation, they remain a strong and loyal group of people with a complex system of justice and care. they also fight the US government's "secret war" against the communists and bare the brunt of the CIA's unsuccessful agenda.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 1, 2008 – Finished Reading
February 25, 2008 – Shelved

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