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Book Reviews of 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
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down A Hmong Child Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures
Author: Anne Fadiman
ISBN-13: 9780374525644
ISBN-10: 0374525641
Publication Date: 9/28/1998
Pages: 352
Rating:
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 235

4 stars, based on 235 ratings
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

32 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 51 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
This book changed the way I looked at immigration, culture, the right to choose medically. Very thought provoking book. Extremely well written.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 26 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
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.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 28 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
Awesome read! I loved it!! This was actually a text book for a medical anthro class, but I read it in two days (way ahead of the rest of the class). Great book.
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.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 57 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
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.
cortney avatar reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This book is required reading for the nursing program I'm in at a college in Sacramento. The title threw me off at first, but after starting this book I was HOOKED! I found the comparison of cultures completely fascinating! It reminded me how easy it is to judge others, when you are unaware of their reasons or background. This book actually helped me view the world in a different light. I have always been interested in other cultures and beliefs, but this book blew me away. It is written beautifully and simply so that you feel as if you are right there. Amazing!
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 49 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
A very good look at a clash of cultures - very readable.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on
Helpful Score: 2
I had to read this book for college, and it was - hands down - my favorite piece of assigned literature. I read it through a second time completely of my own free will. The frustrating conflict between culture and medicine is masterfully portrayed. This book was very thought provoking, and caused me to experience a teeter-totter of emotions. One moment I was cursing the doctors for not listening, the next chapter I was exasperated with the family for their lack of understanding. The only parts of the book I didn't care for were the "history of Laos" chapters - while they provided insight to the Hmong culture; they seemed very dry in comparison to the rest of the book.

If you are involved in the health care field in any way, this book is a must read.

Honestly, even if you don't work in health care, I can't imagine you'd regret reading this book. I loved it.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 48 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I found this book to consist of two stories. The first is the clash between the Hmong family and the US medical establishment in Merced, CA. The second story is the history of the Hmong peoples. I found the first story the most interesting and quickest to read. The second story is slower to read and more bogged down in facts. The second story, however, helps us to understand why the Hmong are here and what their culture is about. An interesting read and reflection on Hmong culture vs American culture.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 412 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
An incredibly fascinating account of culture clash between Western medicine and the belief system of the Hmong people of Laos. It deals specifically with a Hmong child who has severe epilepsy, but it also goes into depth about Hmong history and beliefs. This is neither a fast or light read, but if you have the motivation you will learn a great deal.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 11 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book left me clearly siding with the pro-science American doctors and wondering how to be simultaneously honest and unoffensive to the views of the Hmong child's relatives.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 53 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Hard to read in some places. Bounces from place to place without a chronology. It is a fascinating story about medicine and cultural differences. I learned a lot about the Hmong people, a group I had never heard of before.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A great book that explores the differences in Eastern and Western medicine in a way that anyone will find interesting.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on
Helpful Score: 1
Great book that anyone in health care should have on their must read book. It was a good mix of history and personal story.
amijackie avatar reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book is an amazing look at how cultures can clash and the impact it has on real, live people. This is not a theoretical look at the the need for a multicultural perspective, but a heart-breaking story of how refusal to acknowledge and appreciate difference can change lives. It taught me that by appreciating difference, I can also change lives, but in a good way.

This book will now be required reading in a course I teach called "Introduction to Human Services."
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book was a suggested reading at the back of a textbook. I found it to be the most interesting book, I enjoyed every minute realizing how people from different cultures will see things so vastly differently. For those of us who want to communicate more effectively with people groups other than our own, this is a book that will touch your heart and mind. It is a very touching book and one I recommend even if you just want a great, touching true story to read.
crackabook avatar reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on
Helpful Score: 1
Who are the Hmong, where do they come from and why are they here in America? What are their beliefs/culture? This and more is covered by the author as you follow the struggle of one loving family in a new and strange land trying to survive and raise their children. Non-fiction, I recommend this read to enlighten you to your new neighbors.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 9 more book reviews
Very interesting look at Hmong culture.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on
I loved this book. I learned so much about the Hmong culture by reading this book. I also learned about how difficult it can be to have a sick child when you have a cultural barrier. I have a daughter who has epilepsy and there was so much I took for granted about her health care. I grew to love the family, the Hmong culture and history, and the writing style. Worth the read. I recommended it out to a friend to read as soon as I finished reading it.
charliedollie avatar 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
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.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 6 more book reviews
Best book I've read. Makes you rethink how you deal with people. A wonderfull, but sad story.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 5 more book reviews
Detailed account of cultural misunderstandings surrounding the treatment of a Hmong child with epilepsy.
justbucky avatar reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 17 more book reviews
Being from California's Central Valley, I found this book very insightful into the Hmong story. Definitely an eye opener to many sides on one story.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 46 more book reviews
This book is the story of a family with a sick child. This family immigrated from Laos after the Vietnam war. It is also, if not more so, the story of those who come to this country and do not understand our culture, and those who meet their medical, spiritual, physical needs who do not understand or try to understand their cultures.

It is thought provoking and a serious read.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 34 more book reviews
Provides interesting insights into Hmong immigrant experiences in the United States.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 115 more book reviews
Excellent book, well written. I could see both sides very clearly.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 75 more book reviews
Engaging and interesting. A great balance between a case study and anthropoligical history.
Minehava avatar reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 816 more book reviews
Fascinating insight into the Hmong culture and the clash with modern paternalistic medicine. Not the easiest book to read though. The writing style is quite verbose and I think some brutal editing would have made for better flow. Definitely not the sort of book you can read in one go.

HOWEVER it is also brilliant and thought provoking. Everyone should read this book. The history lesson alone is worth reading. America cant be trusted. It does this again and again. We have such short memories. Vietnam we all remember. Iraq, we all remember. Afghanistan, yes. Siria... ummm not so much, Yugoslavia almost forgotten. The Homong? never heard of them. And then there is the Medical aspect of the story. All medical and nursing students should read it.t is especially of relevance to anyone working with people from a different cultural back ground whether in medicine, education or the workplace in general.

Writer Anne Fadiman decided to look at American medicine through the prism of Lia Lee's sad story. She discovered, and conveyed to readers, the richness of Hmong culture, devoid of sentimentality. Fadiman is careful not to imbue the Hmong with the kind of romanticism that European Americans tend to hold about Native Americans: she does not evade the fact that they can be extremely difficult. By allowing them full humanity, she brings them vividly to life the same way a novelist does her characters--though non-fiction, thi book is as compelling as a great novel.

The Hmong came to America in the 1980s courtesy of war in Southeast Asia. They'd been living in the mountains of Laos, to which they'd migrated from China. The Hmong never assimilate into the culture of the country they inhabit, and have suffered persecution for centuries. They're a migratory tribe without a homeland. Because they helped the CIA in Laos, the Hmong were promised they'd be welcome in the U.S.--but when the troops left, they jetted only generals and hotshots out of the country, leaving the rest of the populace to fend for themselves. With the Laotian army hunting them down as enemies of the state, Hmong families set off on foot, carrying whatever they could manage. Many, particularly the old and the young, died along the way. Most possessions were shed, too heavy to carry, on the days-long journey. When they arrived in Thailand they were placed in refugee camps, where they waited to be rescued by the Americans. Those who were finally brought to America were `resettled' all over the map, without regard for family cohesion or transferability of survival skills: in Detroit, Minneapolis, Utah, Vermont--the Hmong were distributed all over the country so as to not unduly `burden' any one locality. It should be noted that most of these people had never seen snow, or electricity. Never used indoor plumbing, or seen a car. They have no organized religion, but believe in Shamanism, demons, spirits, and sacrificing animals to achieve balance.

The Hmong tend to have large broods of 12 or 13 children, who they deeply adore, and they view disability as a consequence of some parental transgression, for which they atone by treating children with disabilities extra lovingly. They're used to living near relatives, who they see frequently, if not daily. The diaspora of the Hmong represented unspeakable hardship--which they resolved with what they call their `second resettlement.'One family would pack up a hastily purchased jalopy and drive off, looking for a spit of land hospitable to growing vegetables and the herbs necessary for healing rituals. They'd end up where all pioneers do, in California, and send news to relatives in Detroit or Chicago or Billings, Montana. Eventually, pockets of Hmong were clustered in a few locations around the country. Of these, Merced, California, where the Lee family settled, is one of the largest.

About one in every six residents of Merced, formerly an all-white rural area, is now Hmong. Here their culture and community thrived, parallel to the dominant culture, assimilating as little as possible. One way they did have to assimilate is medically: since 80% receive some form of government assistance, social services closely monitor them. American social workers do not have a high level of tolerance for cultural difference, and many Hmong practices, like gardening on the living room floor, or animal sacrifice, put parents in danger of losing their children to foster care--an unthinkable consequence that did occur, for a period of time, to Lia Lee.

The Hmong had heard about Western medicine even before arriving on these shores. They approved of antibiotics--swallow a pill and get well in a week--but not of much else. Surgery was anathema, since cutting the flesh or removing organs risks the flight of the soul. When their daughter Lia fell into the hands of the medical establishment, the Lees suffered deep agony over every procedure, from IV insertion to spinal taps.

Fadiman explores the interactions between the Lees and their daughter's medical caretakers in exhaustive detail. Whenever Lia suffers a setback, the Lees blame the doctors and their methods. The doctors accuse the Lees of "noncompliance" when they fail to properly dose Lia with three different kinds of anti-convulsants at the various times of day prescribed, not realizing that the Hmong don't even use clocks. Fadiman presents a balanced picture, blaming neither the family nor the hospital, but cultural barriers, for what goes wrong--and eventually things do go terribly wrong. By the age of four Lia is brain dead. The hospital hooks her up to feeding tubes, expecting her to die within days, but the Lees insist on taking her home, where they disconnect every tube and treat Lia as a favored family member. They take turns carrying her around on their backs; like a mama bird, Foua pre-chews her daughter's food and feeds it to her orally; they sacrifice pigs in healing ceremonies; and Lia sleeps with her parents every night. To the astonishment of the medical community, Lia does not die, and by the end of the book, years after being declared brain dead, she's still alive. Lia Lee lived for 10 years longer than the awrage vegetative patient, lovingly cared for by her mother and siblings. Her medical condition had never changed. Her father, Nao Kao Lee, died in January of 2003.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on
Really well written, explains all sides.
reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on
brilliant
MediumDebbi avatar reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 92 more book reviews
This book explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia's parents and the doctors both want what's best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them leads to tragedy. Anne Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at it's best. ( From the book jacket)
chrysanthemum avatar reviewed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures on + 65 more book reviews
i heard this is a really good book...it's about a hmong child...her american doctors...and the collision of two cultures...this is taken right off the top of the book.