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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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katiez, January 4, 2010 (view all comments by katiez)
This book was selected and read as a community book project in Davis, CA, and opened my eyes to the often conflicting traditions of Western medicine and the Hmong culture. I think this is a must read - both educationally and emotionally stimulating.
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(6 of 11 readers found this comment helpful)
Debra Schneider, January 2, 2010 (view all comments by Debra Schneider)
Fadiman taught me Hmong history and culture, all through the story of one small child with epilepsy. While recounting the struggle between the competing perspectives of the doctors and the patient/patient's family, Fadiman remains open to and respectful of both. A great story and wonderful writing.
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(3 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)
Dana Brush, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Dana Brush)
Clearly describes medical and cultural views about a Hmong child with epilepsy and does not present either side as wrong. Very good read.
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(3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
Jeane, April 2, 2008 (view all comments by Jeane)
Fadiman has written a fantastic book about the clash between two cultures met in the arena of medicine. At three months old Lia, daughter of Hmong immigrants, developed symptoms of epilepsy. Her parents viewed this condition as indication that her soul had been stolen by a malevolent spirit. Her team of doctors at the Merced Community Medical Center prescribed medicine that could halt her seizures. But her parents did not understand the doctors' diagnosis, routinely failed to administer her medications and preferred to treat her with traditional Hmong healing methods. Both the doctors and her parents cared deeply for Lia, but their complete failure to understand each other led to a disastrous series of events and tragedy. This book is a skillful woven story built of Lia's complex medical case, her family's stubborn solidarity and an exploration into Hmong culture, history and folklore. It presents both sides of the story fairly, looking in equal depth at the doctors' concerns and the deep-rooted beliefs of the Hmong.
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(10 of 23 readers found this comment helpful)
Pam Magnuson, February 9, 2007 (view all comments by Pam Magnuson)
Despite the fact that I am a nurse so could relate to the many difficulties of language barriers with patients, I loved the descriptions of the cultural traditions and beliefs of the Hmong. There is a good historical description of the Hmong and their involvement with the Vietnam War as well as their escape from Loas and immigration to the U.S. A very interesting read.
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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:
Health
Subject:
Ethics
Subject:
Ethnology
Subject:
Minority Studies
Subject:
Anthropology - Cultural
Subject:
Emigration and immigration
Subject:
Intercultural communication
Subject:
Health - General
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:
Attitude to health.
Subject:
Attitude of health personnel.
Subject:
Hmong American children.
Subject:
Hmong Americans.
Subject:
Minority Studies - General
Subject:
Asian - General
Subject:
Health and Medicine-Professional Medical Reference
Subject:
General
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
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Product details 360 pages Noonday Press - 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 , "Superb, informal cultural anthropology — eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging."
"Synopsis" by , 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 aand 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.

Anne Fadiman is the editor of The American Scholar. Recipient of a National Magazine Award for reporting and a John S. Knight Fellowship in Journalism, she has written for Civilization, Harper's, Life, and The New York Times, among other publications. She lives in New York City.

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest

A Salon Book Award Winner

Boston Book Review Ann Rea Jewell Non-Fiction Award

A New York Times Notable Book

A Detroit Free Press Best Book of the Year

A New York Newsday Best Book of the Year

Finalist for the PEN / Martha Albrand Award for First 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 close-knit, 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.

Anne Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down moves from hospital corridors to healing cereomies, and from the hill country of Laos to the living rooms of Merced, uncovering in its path the complex sources and implications of two dramatically clashing worldviews. 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 her prose is a delight. From start to finish, a truly impressive achievement.--Michael Berube, author of Life As We Know It

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

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

If tragedy is a conflict of two goods, if it entails the unfolding of deep human tendencies in a cultural context that makes the outcome seem inevitable, if it moves us more than melodrama, then this fine book recounts a poignant tragedy . . . It is a tale of culture clashes, fear and grief in the face of change, parental love, her doctors' se

"Synopsis" by ,
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 aand 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.

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