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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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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures Cover

ISBN13: 9780374533403
ISBN10: 0374533407
Condition:
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 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 and 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.

Review:

"Ms. Fadiman tells her story with a novelist's grace, playing the role of cultural broker, comprehending those who do not comprehend each other and perceiving what might have been done or said to make the outcome different." Richard Berstein, The New York Times

Review:

"Superb, informal cultural anthropology — eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging." Carole Horn, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"This is a book that should be deeply disturbing to anyone who has given so much as a moment's thought to the state of American medicine. But it is much more....People are presented as [Fadiman] saw them, in their humility and their frailty — and their nobility." Sherwin B. Nuland, The New Republic

Review:

"The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down changed how doctors see themselves and how they see their patients. Anne Fadiman celebrates the complexity and the individuality of the human interactions that make up the practice of medicine while simultaneously pointing out directions for change and breaking readers' hearts with the tragedies of cultural displacement, medical limitations, and futile good intentions." Perri Klass, M.D., author of A Not Entirely Benign Procedure

Review:

"So good I want to somehow make it required reading...The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores issues of culture, immigration, medicine, and the war in [Laos] with such skill that it's nearly impossible to put down." Linnea Lannon, The Detroit Free Press

Review:

"This is a captivating riveting book — a must-read not only for medical professionals, anthropologists, and journalists, but for anyone interested in how to negotiate cultural difference in a shrinking world. Fadiman's ability to empathize with the resolutely independent Hmong as well as with the remarkable doctors, caseworkers, and officials of Merced County makes her narrative both richly textured and deeply illuminating. Sometimes the stakes here are multicultural harmony and understanding; sometimes they're literally life and death — whether in wartime Laos or in American emergency rooms. But whatever the stakes and wherever the setting, Fadiman's reporting is meticulous, and prose is a delight. From start to finish, a truly impressive achievement." Michael Berube, author of Life As We Know It

Synopsis:

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down 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. Lias parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest, and the Salon Book Award, Anne Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest.

Synopsis:

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down 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. Lias parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest, and the Salon Book Award, Anne Fadimans compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest.

About the Author

Anne Fadiman was born in New York City and was raised in Connecticut and Los Angeles. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a wilderness instructor in Wyoming before returning to New York to write. She has been a staff writer at Life, editor-at-large of Civilization, and editor of The American Scholar. Fadiman is also the author of Ex Libris and At Large and At Small, and the editor of Rereadings. She now lives with her family in western Massachusetts and serves as the Francis Writerin-Residence at Yale.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

melbutler02, October 24, 2013 (view all comments by melbutler02)
As a medical provider, I found Anne Fadiman's book extremely eye-opening and insightful. Part history of the Hmong culture (the ethnicity depicted in Clint Eastwood's 2008 film, Gran Torino) and part biography of an epileptic toddler and her family's struggles with the American healthcare system, Fadiman describes The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down "not as the book about the Hmong but as a book about communication and miscommunication across cultures." I originally picked up this book to learn more about epilepsy but found myself realizing and redefining my own intolerance to other cultures.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Elena Adamo, May 2, 2013 (view all comments by Elena Adamo)
A must read for physicians and their patients. A provocative and educational look at the interaction of western medical culture with that of the shamans and spiritual animism of the Hmong.
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islander12, May 2, 2012 (view all comments by islander12)
Our book club read this, and at our meeting, we couldn't stop talking about the issues: the Dr/family miscommunications, what could the Dr's have done differently, what if our town had gotten a 10% population influx of Hmong immigrants on welfare, how would we have dealt with it? What was happening now in these hospitals? Have the Hmong integrated into the local culture any more? The little girl from the story, Lia, is still alive more than 20 years later in a persistent vegetative state, what would that be like? How could the Child Protective Service intervention been prevented? We wanted to know more about the Hmong migration and how their culture in the US is doing now?
Anne Fadiman captured the personal and the cultural in this story, and it was dense with detail, history and emotion.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780374533403
Author:
Fadiman, Anne
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Subject:
Civilization
Subject:
Anthropology - Cultural
Subject:
General
Subject:
Health and Medicine-Professional Medical Reference
Subject:
Pediatrics
Subject:
Disease & Health Issues
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20120431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Notes on Sources/Bibliography/Index
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.28 x 5.6 x 0.975 in

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Related Subjects


Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Essays
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Professional Medical Reference
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Asian American
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Immigration
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » General
History and Social Science » World History » Western Civilization

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures Sale Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.98 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Farrar, Straus and Giroux - English 9780374533403 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Ms. Fadiman tells her story with a novelist's grace, playing the role of cultural broker, comprehending those who do not comprehend each other and perceiving what might have been done or said to make the outcome different."
"Review" by , "Superb, informal cultural anthropology — eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging."
"Review" by , "This is a book that should be deeply disturbing to anyone who has given so much as a moment's thought to the state of American medicine. But it is much more....People are presented as [Fadiman] saw them, in their humility and their frailty — and their nobility."
"Review" by , "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down changed how doctors see themselves and how they see their patients. Anne Fadiman celebrates the complexity and the individuality of the human interactions that make up the practice of medicine while simultaneously pointing out directions for change and breaking readers' hearts with the tragedies of cultural displacement, medical limitations, and futile good intentions."
"Review" by , "So good I want to somehow make it required reading...The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores issues of culture, immigration, medicine, and the war in [Laos] with such skill that it's nearly impossible to put down."
"Review" by , "This is a captivating riveting book — a must-read not only for medical professionals, anthropologists, and journalists, but for anyone interested in how to negotiate cultural difference in a shrinking world. Fadiman's ability to empathize with the resolutely independent Hmong as well as with the remarkable doctors, caseworkers, and officials of Merced County makes her narrative both richly textured and deeply illuminating. Sometimes the stakes here are multicultural harmony and understanding; sometimes they're literally life and death — whether in wartime Laos or in American emergency rooms. But whatever the stakes and wherever the setting, Fadiman's reporting is meticulous, and prose is a delight. From start to finish, a truly impressive achievement."
"Synopsis" by , The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down 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. Lias parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest, and the Salon Book Award, Anne Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest.
"Synopsis" by ,
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down 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. Lias parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest, and the Salon Book Award, Anne Fadimans compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest.
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