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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 Cover


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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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dlm, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by dlm)
This is a great book for not only understanding Hmong culture, but American culture as well. A very well written anthropologically informed study of the relationship between a Hmong family, their severely epilectic daughter, Americans, cultural ideas, and medical systems. A great read.
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rcc, September 20, 2011 (view all comments by rcc)
The most eye opening book that i've read about healthcare in my doctoral training. this book should be mandatory for anyone involved in healthcare since it teaches so much about one culture, the Hmong, and does it on an emotional level. once you read this you'll never forget lia lee.
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Product Details

A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
Fadiman, Anne
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
New York :
Minority Studies
Anthropology - Cultural
Emigration and immigration
Intercultural communication
Medical care
Ethnic groups
Hmong (asian people)
Cross-Cultural Comparison
Transcultural medical care
Delivery of Health Care
Epilepsy in children
Hmong American children.
Hmong Americans.
Asian - General
Health and Medicine-Professional Medical Reference
Disease & Health Issues
Edition Number:
1st paperback ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Series Volume:
no. 5
Publication Date:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
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
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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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