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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 A Hmong Child Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures Author:Anne Fadiman 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... more » Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.
Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness aand healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, qaug dab peg--the spirit catches you and you fall down--and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.« less
I absolutely loved this book! It is written with such insight into the culture of the Hmong. It was an eye opener of the best kind - taking the reader into the midst of a medical case involving a very ill Hmong child in a small county hospital in California - language and cultural barriers that the author works to eliminate. Racial tensions, discrimination, miscommunication - the author worked through it and detailed the journey into a very readable, intelligent, thought-provoking piece of work.
Peg D. reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
A Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures. Probably one of the best books I have ever read, a non-fiction that reads like a novel. This child is born with epilepsy, and the parents believe her condition is caused by spirits called "dabs", and don't administer her medications properly, if at all. Anne Fadiman is a wonderful writer, and you will be caught up in the drama as well as further understanding the Hmong people and their history. I can't recommend this highly enough.
This book details the clash of two culturs: an immigrant Hmong family and the American medical system as each strives to keep the young daughter who has epilepsy healthy. Very though provoking--it provided the perspective of our medical care through the eyes of another culture. (good information for all health care professionals.) I also learned alot about the Hmong culture, how they were affected by the Vietnam war and how many immigrated to the US. This is not a light reading book; I also had a light-reading book to read so I could alternate between them as my mood dictated. Story plot detailed in other reviews.
This book was required reading for my Cultural Anthropology class, and I'm glad I read it.
The book revolves around Lia, a Hmong child with severe epilepsy, and how her parents and doctors struggle to help her. Her parents are very traditional in Hmong terms and percieve Lia's seizures as a sign that Lia is able to see into the spirit world. This brings them a great sense of pride. However, being in America, doctors know how serious the situation is and try to convince the parents.
The parents only want what is best for their daughter, but, in there minds, where American doctors raise red flags, they struggle on what that is.
The Spirit Cathes You is a great book that really makes you think about culture as the "outline" of how we perceive the world.