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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (FSG Classics) Paperback – April 24, 2012
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Lia Lee was born in 1981 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, overmedication, and culture clash: "What the doctors viewed as clinical efficiency the Hmong viewed as frosty arrogance." The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, written with the deepest of human feeling. Sherwin Nuland said of the account, "There are no villains in Fadiman's tale, just as there are no heroes. People are presented as she saw them, in their humility and their frailty--and their nobility." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
YA?A compelling anthropological study. The Hmong people in America are mainly refugee families who supported the CIA militaristic efforts in Laos. They are a clannish group with a firmly established culture that combines issues of health care with a deep spirituality that may be deemed primitive by Western standards. In Merced, CA, which has a large Hmong community, Lia Lee was born, the 13th child in a family coping with their plunge into a modern and mechanized way of life. The child suffered an initial seizure at the age of three months. Her family attributed it to the slamming of the front door by an older sister. They felt the fright had caused the baby's soul to flee her body and become lost to a malignant spirit. The report of the family's attempts to cure Lia through shamanistic intervention and the home sacrifices of pigs and chickens is balanced by the intervention of the medical community that insisted upon the removal of the child from deeply loving parents with disastrous results. This compassionate and understanding account fairly represents the positions of all the parties involved. The suspense of the child's precarious health, the understanding characterization of the parents and doctors, and especially the insights into Hmong culture make this a very worthwhile read.?Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Before reading this book I have never heard anything about the Hmong culture. The writer does a good job at getting into the Hmong's way of thinking and how coming over to American can be quite a culture shock.
The book skips around a lot which can be a good or a bad thing depending on the style of reading you like. For example, one chapter will talk about the Hmong culture itself while the next will talk about the specific Hmong family and the chapter after that many jump to something different. This can be good because we are continually being fed information about the Hmong culture while reading the story, however, it may come across confusing to the reader. I personally would have rather seen a few chapters at the beginning explaining the Hmong culture and then delve into the story of Lia Lee and her family without any interrupting chapters.
I would probably give this a five star, however besides the problem mentioned above, i also found this book to be repetitive when it came to describing the Hmong culture. For example, the issue of animal sacrifice comes up countless times throughout which I found unnecessary. It would have been easier just to have a section describing the Hmong's practice of animal sacrifice to give us an understanding and after that only bring it up in the story when it is part of the actual story.
There are many things that can be taken from this book such as culture sensitivity, how even those with good intentions can mess things up, and how shocking it can be to adjust to one culture and then become part of a culture that is entirely different.
The story itself is based on a true story that has apparently had a strong impact on the medical world. For this I give the author much credit. I also give her credit in her sensitivity discussing the topic and how she was able to engage the interest of the reader when telling the story.
I recommend this book for those that will be working with diverse populations whether it be in the medical field, field of psychology, or any other such field.
If you are going into the medical or Social sciences courses or if those topics simply interest you, I highly reccomend this
a refugee and immigrant to the United States. As a future nurse this is a great book to read if you want to learn
about what it will be like in the medical field and meeting people from different cultures and how you should respect
and learn about another culture. Great read and real eye-opener
That said, she did create a nice balance between the Lee family's viewpoint and that of the medical personnel who worked with them. This was gracefully portrayed; she showed each person as a fallible human, with both good and bad moments, making good and bad decisions. Ultimately I found myself most moved by the realization that, in spite of all good wishes and sincere efforts, people can do their utmost to communicate and still, tragically, fail.