The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Lia Lee was born in 1982 to a family of recent Hmong immigrants, and soon developed symptoms of epilepsy. By 1988 she was living at home but was brain dead after a tragic cycle of misunderstanding, over-medication, and culture clash: "What the doctors viewed as clinical efficiency the Hmong viewed as frosty arrogance." The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, written with the deepest of human feeling. She...

Details The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

TitleThe Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Release DateSep 30th, 1998
PublisherNoonday Press
GenreNonfiction, Health, Medicine, Anthropology, Medical, Science

Reviews The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

  • Matt
    If nothing else can be said about this book, it should be said that it will cause a reaction. Most books are a monologue. The author is telling you something and you listen. Anne Fadiman’s book is so engaging, and touches on so many sensitive subjects, that it’s more like a dialogue between author and reader. And I use the word dialogue literally. During the course of this book, I found myself audibly voicing my opinions at the page like a cr...
  • Lisa Vegan
    I knew a little about this case, and before I read the book, I was certain I’d feel infuriated with the Hmong family and feel nothing but disrespect for them, and would side with the American side, even though I have my issues with the western medical establishment as well. Not that I didn’t feel angry (and amused) at times with both sides, but I also ended up empathizing with the people in both sides of this culture clash, which is a testame...
  • Inder
    This is the heartbreaking story of Lia, a Hmong girl with epilepsy in Merced. It is intended to be an ethnography, describing two different cultural approaches to Lia's sickness: her Hmong parents' and her American doctors'.Don't read any further unless you don't mind knowing the basic story told in this book (there are no spoilers, since this is not a book with a surprise ending, but if you want to keep a completely open mind, stop now) ... I ha...
  • Teresa
    A book like this one should be required reading for anyone who lives in a community of multicultural members, and nowadays that's probably just about everyone. Sadly, and not surprisingly, those who would probably most benefit from a book like this would probably be the ones least likely to read it.It's an eye-opener on cross-cultural issues, especially those in the medical field, but also in the religious, as the Hmong don't distinguish between ...
  • Eric
    This is one of the best books I've read. I guess it would be considered part of the medical anthropology genre, but it's so compelling that it sheds that very dry, nerdly-sounding label. This was recommended to me in a cultural literacy course and it certainly delivered. The story is of the treatment of the epileptic child of a Hmong immigrant family in the American health system. The issue is the clash of cultures and the confusing and heartbrea...
  • Beverly
    In Hmong culture they revere their children so much, it is wonderful. This little girl was her parent's favorite and they believed her epilepsy was a special gift that made her more in tune with the spirit world. Many of the spirit healers in Hmong society have epilepsy.More largely, this is the story of a clash between western and eastern cultures, a communication lapse that ultimately ended up hurting the parents of this little girl very profou...
  • Hamad
    The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down may read like a documentary (thanks to Fadiman’s journalistic background), but it is really an introspection on the western system of medicine and science. We cannot ourselves metaphorically stand back and try to look at the system from the outside. However, comparing it to another (supposedly antithetical) system through the experiences of the Hmong refugees can be used as a tool to do just that. The Hm...
  • Mmars
    There are so many valuable aspects to this book it's hard to decide what to mention. Having just learned that Lia, the subject of the book, passed away within the last week I'd like to express sheer admiration to her family, and especially her parents, for loving and caring for her for so many years. Along with a large influx of Hmong, Lia lived in Merced, CA when she experienced her first seizures. The Hmong and their language and their culture ...
  • Heather
    Anne Fadiman addresses a number of difficult topics in her depiction of a Hmong couple's quest to restore the soul to their child. While I consider myself a culturally sensitive individual, having been raised in a family of doctors and nurses, I have long held the conviction that the world's best doctors (whether imported or native) tread on American soil. Reading Fadiman's account (which sometimes includes actual excerpts from the patient's char...
  • Robbin
    i read this book for a class i am taking called "human behavior and the social environment." it tells the story of a Hmong family in california with a little girl who has epilepsy. their experience as refugees who are illiterate and unable to speak english, traversing the american medical system ends up tragic. however, the author is really good at giving voice to both sides, the western doctors (impatient, overworked, stubborn, judgmental, dedic...
  • Samantha Newman
    I never would have chosen this book to read on my own. So I must thank Eliza for lending it to me. (I now feel like lending/recommending a book proves friendship...)I didn't know anything about Hmong culture and now I do. This book also taught me about the American medical system - it looks strange when you step back. It would have been a good book for me to read when I was in Japan, too, because it kind of opened me up to the idea that people of...
  • Chelsea
    Fadiman wrote a fascinating and sympathetic story about a culture that couldn't be much farther removed from ours in the West. It was especially interesting reading it right after Hitchen's God Is Not Great, because, theoretically, had there been no religion involved there wouldn't have been a real culture clash, and Lia could have grown up as an epileptic but functioning girl. Maybe.But that's not really the point of Fadiman's book: she doesn't ...
  • Merritt
    An interesting story that highlights the many cultural differences between Americans and our immigrants (in this case the Hmong culture). Lia Lee is a Hmong child with severe epilepsy and the American doctors trying to treat her clash over her entire life with her parents, who are also trying to treat her condition. Fadiman walks a fine line in describing the story fairly from both perspectives; however, it's difficult, as an American, to not fee...
  • K
    "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" explores the tragedy of Lia Lee, a Hmong child with epilepsy who eventually suffered severe brain damage, from a variety of perspectives. One perspective is that of her family, who believed that epilepsy had a spiritual rather than a medical explanation, and who had both practical difficulty (as illiterate, non-English speaking immigrants to the U.S.) and general reluctance to comply with Lia's complicat...
  • Katie
  • Claudia Putnam
    In graduate school (comparative religion), I took a class called ritual, illness, and the body. This book came out just a few years later. Though we studied other fascinating examples of medical anthropology looking at Western, especially American, practices, it would have been wonderful to be able to use this text. Though doctors today more often take courses in cross-cultural awareness in med school, it's still just a small portion of their tra...
  • Book Concierge
    Subtitle: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two CulturesThe 150,000 Hmong refugees who came to the United States in the late 1970s arrived in a country and culture that could not have been more foreign to them. The Lee family had escaped their native village in the hills of Laos and settled in Merced California. In July 1982 Foua Yang gave birth to her fourteenth child; Foua and her husband Nao Kao Lee would name the littl...
  • Sarah
    Amazing book. In my work with people with developmental disabilities and epilepsy, I've seen a lot of examples of the disconnect between doctor and patient -- and that's even when both speak a common language and have a common cultural understanding of their roles. This book tells the story of an extreme example, in which the patient's parents neither understood the doctors nor trusted them, and the medical system held a reciprocal inability to u...
  • Naeem
    So close and yet so far.Fadiman sets up an epistemological encounters between US doctors and Hmong culture. The life of a young woman is at stake.The book is well written, well researched, and Fadiman's heart seems to be in the right place. The book fails however. Ultimately, as hard as she tries, Fadiman cannot overcome her biases. That would be less of a problem if she did not want to come across as "objective." A touch of theory and a bit of w...
  • Miklos
    Is it terrible that I found myself sympathizing with the doctors and that the family was getting in the way of treating their childs illness?
  • Mark
    “It is well known that involuntary migrants, no matter what pot they are thrown into, tend not to melt.” In 1981, after relocating to Merced, California, Lia Lee was born to a Hmong refugee family, from Laos.. She quickly developed severe epilepsy. By 1988, she was living at home, brain-dead. The events that led up to this tragedy: the misunderstandings, the culture clashes and flawed decisions, are the backbone of this story. Of course, the ...
  • El
    A little Hmong girl slammed the front door once and her three month old sister had what the medical community call an epileptic seizure. The Hmong family referred to it as quag dab peg which translates to "the spirit catches you and you fall down". It was the beginning of a long series of similar seizures, and the beginning of a long series of difficulties between the Hmong and American cultures.Lia Lee and her family were refugees living in Merc...
  • Chrissie
    Having now finished the book, I know Lia's fate. You must read the book to find out. No spoilers here!It is important to note that this book should be read by those not only interested in anthropology and how medical practices could/should be improved, but also those wanting to learn more about the Silent War in Laos. So many have been written about the war in Vietnam and so few about that in Laos.How do you teach doctors to feel empathy and love...
  • Bonnie Brody
    I first read this book about three years ago and recently re-read it. I am a socal worker and educator but I have been giving copies of this book to everyone I know because it is relevant to anyone who has any interactions with people of different cultures. It reads like a novel and is a page-turner. It is also loaded with information and written in a literary and beautiful style.The book focuses on the clash between Hmong culture and traditional...
  • Polly Vella
    This book was so interesting and very moving. I learned a lot about the Hmong community that has settled in many parts of the United States. The Hmong are mostly from Laos, but they are in other parts of Asia as well, including in Yunnan province where we just went on China Alive! In China this group is referred to as the Miao. This ethnic minority has traditionally lived in mountain and areas which are landlocked. Because of this, they have main...
  • Irene
    "The parents of one small boy emptied his intravenous bottle refilling it with a green slime of undetermined ingredients- herbal home brew made by the Hmong parents for ages. Hmong patients made a lot of noise in the hospital which annoyed their American counterparts. They sometimes wanted to slaughter animals in the parking lot or hospital room of a sick relative. One resident recalls" they would bang the crap out of some musical instrument whil...
  • N.
    Christ, what a ride. I thought this book would be dry and unreadable. I had to read this for my Cultures & Madness class and write a book report (that I still haven't done). While there are times that it can be dense, it is very well written. Ms. Fadiman writes about the Hmong with incredible gravitas and emotionality. I don't know how she did it but, by the time I finished the book I was all teary. Sure, it could be that I haven't slept in days ...
  • Thinn
    My dad told me to read this book 2 years ago but I never mange to read it. I happened to read it exactly a week after my cousin died with epilepsy. The main character in the book, Lia, also have several epilepsy which lead her to vegetable stage. Both Lai and my cousin was born on the same year too. Before I read the book, I don't knowWho Hmongs are though they live next to my country. The author beautifully wrote between the medical perspective ...
  • smetchie
    If you like non-fiction just ignore my lack of stars. This is a really interesting story, well told. I learned all kinds of stuff. It made me mad when the author wanted me to be mad and it made me sad when she wanted me to be sad. She exposed the massive cultural divide between Hmong and Western medicine while telling a sweet and heartbreaking story. She made me think and explore my own cultural bias. The topic is extremely thought-provoking. It'...