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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American… (original 1997; edition 1998)
by Anne Fadiman (Author)
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (1997)
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Well-researched and well-written. I'd probably give this 3.5 stars. I learned quite a bit about the Hmong culture and history, and a smidge about the US medical establishment, too. ( )
Author researches a Hmong family in California with an epileptic daughter and their experience with US Health care system, shows culture and doctors care deeply for child with radically different approaches to treatment. Also touches on racial, economic prejudice combined with low literacy as barriers to allowing the two approaches to become complementary. Fadiman is also a superb essayist, this is an outstanding book.
This book deals with the culture clash between Hmong refugees from Laos in the same time period and American doctors called upon to treat their epileptic child. Well-written, fascinating, and compassionate to both points of view.
This is an interesting book about the Hmong people through the story of a specific family that lived in California. Their daughter had epilepsy and was diagnosed and treated by American health care. I was not familiar with the Hmong and never thought much about the process of incorporating refugees into the United States. The story is long and the details are not always critical to know but I learned about refugees and culture conflict. I am not certain that I agree with the author’s conclusions on the need to combine scientific methods and shamanism to accommodate primitive cultures.
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.
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.
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Wikipedia in English (7)
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 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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)306.461Social sciences Social Sciences Culture and Institutions Specific aspects of culture Technology Medicine and health
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