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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
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Joanne (joabroda1) | 7453 comments The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures 4 stars

From The Book Jacket :" Lia Lee was born in 1982 to a family of recent Hmong immigrants, and soon developed symptoms of epilepsy. By 1988 she was living at home but was brain dead after a tragic cycle of misunderstanding, over-medication, and culture clash: "What the doctors viewed as clinical efficiency the Hmong viewed as frosty arrogance

I knew basically nothing about the Hmong people and their culture before reading this book. The author, a journalist from New York, gave me quite an education.

In the mid 1970s and through the 1980's, The Hmong people began to settle in Merced California. They were refuges of the Laotian Civil War. After the conclusion of the war, Communist forces began to oppress the Hmong, who had fought for the anti-Communist United States side.

The history of the Hmong being persecuted and pushed from one country to the next is sad. They originally came from China in the late 18th Century and spread into the mountains of Laos. Their culture is known for it's rigid, stubborn personalities-however, they are openly loving and accepting, as long as those things flow both ways.

When the Lee family arrived in California their daughter Lia was just a toddler. She was the youngest of their children, and spoiled with love and affection. Lia was afflicted with epilepsy-the Lee's knew this but they considered it a problem with her soul. They believed a dab (a spirit) had stolen Lia's soul and her shaking and falling were a direct result.

The Lee's and the Merced medical community were at odds from the very beginning. The main problem being the lack of reliable interrupters available. No other culture speaks Hmong, and the language is very difficult to translate into English. This left both sides being misinformed and frustrated over Lia's care. As time went on Lia's condition worsened and the relationship between them and the medical community deteriorated beyond repair.

I enjoyed this book, but had to stop at 4 stars. The Author delves into the history of the war(s) in Southeast Asia to the extreme. Although this was informative, it dragged way too much and had me skimming to get back to the story of Lia.

I would recommend this to anyone with interest in culture, medicine and what can happen when the lines of communication are broken.


Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 5793 comments I read this for my F2F book club a couple of years ago. Great review.


Joanne (joabroda1) | 7453 comments Thanks BC. I think it would be great book/ discussion for A
a F2F bclub


message 4: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2321 comments So interesting. This does sound like a good book for a discussion ... not that I actually have a F2F bookclub to discuss it with


Joanne (joabroda1) | 7453 comments KateNZ wrote: "So interesting. This does sound like a good book for a discussion ... not that I actually have a F2F bookclub to discuss it with"

You can chat with Florence about it...I am sure she would love it, just because it is your voice ;)


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