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2 Hawthorne Health and Medicine- Medical Biographies
1 Hawthorne Ethnic Studies- Asian American
3 Hawthorne Health and Medicine- History of Medicine

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

by

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

 

Awards

1997 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction

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 Bernstein, The New York Times

Review:

"An intriguing, spirit-lifting, extraordinary exploration of two cultures in uneasy coexistence...A wonderful aspect of Fadiman's book is her evenhanded, detailed presentation of these disparate cultures and divergent views — not with cool, dispassionate fairness but rather with a warm, involved interest...Fadiman's book is superb, informal cultural anthropology — eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging." Carole Horn, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"This fine book recounts a poignant tragedy...It has no heroes or villains, but it has an abunance of innocent suffering, and it most certainly does have a moral...[A] sad, excellent book." Melvin Konner, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"I cannot think of a book by a non-physician that is more understanding of the difficulties of caring for people...or of the conditions under which today's medicine is practiced." Sherwin B. Nuland, The New Republic

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

Synopsis:

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, this brilliantly reported and beautifully crafted book explores the clash between a medical center in California and a Laotian refugee family over their care of a child — and the lack of understanding that led to tragedy.

Description:

Includes bibliographical references (p. [313]-326) and index.

About the Author

Anne Fadiman is the author of two essay collections, At Large and At Small and Ex Libris, and the editor of Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down received a National Book Critics Circle Award, an L.A. Times Book Prize, and a Salon Book Award. Her essays and articles have appeared in Harpers, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications. She is the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 11 comments:

AYUN, January 23, 2015 (view all comments by AYUN)
The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down makes a strong case for cultural understanding as a first step in medical treatment. It should be required reading for anyone working in a big city hospital or a smaller community with a large immigrant population. As the mother of a child with intractable epilepsy, it was distressing to witness the little girl's deterioration, but I understood why her parents would not - or could not - comply with her doctor's orders. It's also weirdly comforting for me to see other cultures taking a positive view of seizures, coming from a place where they are seen only as affliction and disability.
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(5 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)
melbutler02, August 5, 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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(4 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
MollyT, January 3, 2013 (view all comments by MollyT)
Best thing I've ever read on how cultures collide, even in multi-cultural America. There are no heroes and no villains in this book, only people trying to do the right thing. Should be required reading for everyone in the health care and social work professions.
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(5 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 11 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374525644
Subtitle:
A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
Author:
Fadiman, Anne
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Medicine
Subject:
Ethics
Subject:
Ethnology
Subject:
Minority Studies
Subject:
Anthropology - Cultural
Subject:
Emigration and immigration
Subject:
Intercultural communication
Subject:
Medical care
Subject:
Epilepsy
Subject:
Ethnic groups
Subject:
Hmong (asian people)
Subject:
Cross-Cultural Comparison
Subject:
Transcultural medical care
Subject:
Delivery of Health Care
Subject:
Epilepsy in children
Subject:
Hmong American children.
Subject:
Hmong Americans.
Subject:
Asian - General
Subject:
Health and Medicine-Professional Medical Reference
Subject:
Pediatrics
Subject:
Disease & Health Issues
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st paperback ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Series Volume:
no. 5
Publication Date:
19980930
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
360
Dimensions:
8.28 x 5.52 x 0.945 in

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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 360 pages Farrar, Straus and Giroux - English 9780374525644 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 , "An intriguing, spirit-lifting, extraordinary exploration of two cultures in uneasy coexistence...A wonderful aspect of Fadiman's book is her evenhanded, detailed presentation of these disparate cultures and divergent views — not with cool, dispassionate fairness but rather with a warm, involved interest...Fadiman's book is superb, informal cultural anthropology — eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging."
"Review" by , "This fine book recounts a poignant tragedy...It has no heroes or villains, but it has an abunance of innocent suffering, and it most certainly does have a moral...[A] sad, excellent book."
"Review" by , "I cannot think of a book by a non-physician that is more understanding of the difficulties of caring for people...or of the conditions under which today's medicine is practiced."
"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."
"Synopsis" by , Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, this brilliantly reported and beautifully crafted book explores the clash between a medical center in California and a Laotian refugee family over their care of a child — and the lack of understanding that led to tragedy.
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