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|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.|
|eBay Product ID (ePID)||429596|
|Number Of Pages||360 pages|
|Publisher||Farrar, Straus & Giroux|
|LC Classification Number||RA418.5.T73|
|"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 "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 "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|
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A crosscultural paradigm shift
Not many books show and tell in such excellent detail a story about crosscultural interactions, especially within the realm of medicine. In reading the bok it helps bring out any ethnocentric opinions one might have when dealing with other cultures. It is quickly discovered how different two people can view the world as the author takes the reader into the world of the Hmong, a displaced, abused, proud people. She shows clearly the conflict of them as displaced people in a foreign land with a worldview, which is 180 degrees opposite theirs, as well as showing the frustration and difficulty experieced by the medical professionals in handling the Hmong. There are always "must reads" out there. I acquired the book for a required reading for first year medical school, and I have to readily say that it is a must read for all, because in medicine in this day and age we must all work with cultures quite unlike our own. This book opens the eyes to the reality and validity of the views and beliefs of those around us, though worlds apart. Upon reading the book you will not be able to view any other culture, including your own, in the same light again. It has been truly humbling to me, someone that has worked on several different continents, among vastly different cultures.
I Wish it Were Longer!
I bought this book as required reading for a class. As it was winter break, I had time and decided to read it before the class. It was so engaging that I hardly put it down, and I kept wanting to read more even after I had finished it. It follows the story of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy, Lia Lee, from both the point of view of her doctors and of her family. Her parents were refugees from Laos who immigrated to Merced, California in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. They speak no English and understand very little of US culture, as the Hmong have always lived in the mountains as farmers. They face tremendous difficulty in trying to communicate with the doctors; each side is trying to do what their culture says is best for Lia, but the two are often not compatible, not to mention that neither side can seem to make itself understood. Anne Fadiman really did her research, seeming to have talked to anyone who had contact with Lia during these troubled years. She explains Hmong culture in a straight-forward, matter-of-fact manner, as she learned it from the Hmong people she came to know as friends. She also describes the troubles and even personal health issues of the American doctors who were trying so hard to help Lia. I think Fadiman does justice to both sides, not laying blame on either, but showing how the vast differences in ways of thinking can lead to such large problems. She also tells how problems such as these have lead to the American medical industry becoming more open to other cultures' forms of medicine, and learning how to have a happy medium between the two. A highly-engaging read for even someone who knows nothing about the Hmong, the medical industry, or problems with communication between two cultures.
I purchased this book for a class and read it over my vacation to get ahead. It was a very well written book. The author shifts between a personal narrative of a Hmong family and information on the history and culture of the Hmong. It is a very balanced book that gives a good overview of the broad topic and also illustrates an example that really pulls the reader in. The author is is a great writer. She transistions between these topics smoothly and the book flows very nicely. It is a good read even for personal interest.
When the Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
The language used was easy to understand and relate to. Fadiman is able to portray levels of cultural clashes between the medical world and refugee families with language barriers and miscommunications. Her ability to find stories and views from both sides makes this book an excellent source of awareness when learning about cultural sensitivity.
A highly recommended book.
In our culture, when one is sick, one has to do everything in order to get better. This includes going to a doctor, taking the required medicines and even undergoing surgery to “fix” any physical abnormalities of the body. It is simply assumed that being sick is a bad thing and thus, undesirable (DeJong 1983). However, in certain cultures such as Hmong’s, a particular “sickness” is actually desirable. This particular sickness is epilepsy. In Hmong culture, epilepsy is more known as a state of qaug dab peg when it literally means “the spirit catches you and you fall down”. Although known as a serious condition, it is still desirable because a Hmong with epilepsy can often become shaman, a person with higher social status in Hmong’s community for his/her spiritual healing power (Fadiman 1997). This view clearly contradicts the view of modern Western medicines, and therefore often results in a clash between the two cultures: Hmong and American’s, as shown in “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two cultures” by Anne Fadiman. Through this book, we are forced to question the credibility of medical model and the possibility of embracing alternative models, such as the one employed by Hmong people and in the process of doing so, we may be able to learn respecting cultures and backgrounds that are different from ours.