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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (FSG Classics) by Anne Fadiman (2012-04-24)

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    Anne Fadiman(Author)

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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Anne Fadiman(Author)
  • Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1840)
  • Unknown
  • 8
  • Other books

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Review Text

  • By Jennifer on March 6, 2016

    This book was written in 1997 and I first read it in nursing school. Although it’s been almost twenty years, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” is just as relevant now as it was when it was written. In fact, I somehow mentioned the book to my mother in law and when I found out she hadn’t read it, I bought her a copy for Christmas. I then felt compelled to re-read the book myself, and discovered that I’ve lent out my copy. It’s been long enough that I’m guessing that I’m not getting my copy back- especially since I don’t recall who has my copy! I came to Amazon today to purchase another copy for myself. The book is just that good.Anne Fadiman’s book is really engaging and just draws the reader in. Although “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” touches on so sensitive subjects, Anne Fadiman manages to illustrate the cultural differences so starkly that I ended up feeling sympathetic to both the western medical community that was trying to treat Lia Lee as well as Lia’s family and her community. It’s written far more like a dialogue between author and reader than a narrative.I work as a nurse I often think of this book when I watch a new mom stuff cotton in her ears, put a towel over her head before going outside, reject the hospital food in favor of broth and chicken brought in by family, or politely remind me over and over “No ice in the water please!”. I honestly think this book should be required reading for doctors, nurses, social workers, foster parents, etc.

  • By Pond Lady on February 20, 2016

    A real eyeopener to the Hmong culture, the treatment of epilepsy and the various views of medical staff and caregivers. I was drawn to this book because I have a child who has had seizures. Learning the viewpoint of another culture toward epilepsy gave me greater understanding on facing such a disability. It was unsettling to realize the different approaches to treatment and how cultural differences were/are not always recognized (to the benefit of the patient and their family). This was not an enjoyable book to read, but it was also not easy to put down. I hope that more recently cultural awarness in medical staff and caregivers has been recognized and is being put to use.

  • By Lord Galderon on October 30, 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. I can understand why over the course of the past decade, it has become required reading for many students entering health care professions. It painted such a detailed picture of not only a specific incidence of cultural collisions with the Lee family and doctors of Merced, CA, but also how these collisions occur in other cultures and in other instances across America and the world. I felt that it was extremely thorough and fair to both the Hmong experience and the Lee family, and also that of the doctors at MCMC. I could feel and relate to the horrors and frustrations on both sides, and fully understood how and why it was so difficult to reach common ground. I had a deep sense of empathy for Lia, who was the innocent victim of an almost unavoidable cultural gap.The culture expressed by the Hmong people is vastly different from that of Western culture, and even most Eastern culture and neighboring Asian countries. For example, there is a passage in the book that explains common gestures and social interactions that are considered inappropriate to the Hmong: “Doctors could also appear disrespectful if they tried to maintain friendly eye contact (which was considered invasive), touched the head of an adult without permission (grossly insulting), or beckoned with a crooked finger (appropriate only for animals). It was important to never to compliment a baby’s beauty out loud, lest a dab (an evil spirit) overhear and be unable to resist snatching its soulThe Hmong community in Merced, California are in desperate need of translators. Not only language translators, but more importantly, cultural translators. They need cultural liaisons to not only guide them through western culture, but to educate westerners about their culture. One thing I thought was very poignant, was a quote by a psychologist at Merced Community Outreach Services, by the name of Sukey Walker. She found a way to interact and communicate with the Hmong that was better than any of her American counterparts. She detailed one of her keys to success : “I have one rule. Before I do anything, I ask ‘Is it Okay?’”This is a very real book. It is very heartbreaking, and very true to life. There was no happy ending or easy solution to the problems in this book. However, there is a certain amount of optimism expressed here, and it made me very hopeful and eager to see these cultural barriers deconstructed.


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