An Analysis Of Anne Fadiman 's ' The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down '

1545 Words Dec 16th, 2015 7 Pages
Book Review

In this complicated and heartbreaking book about a “cultural impasse” that started in the small county hospital of Merced, California, Anne Fadiman presents us the story of how a Hmong girl suffering from severe epilepsy brought to light what happens when the American medical community fails to see patients as people whose cultural background is completely different from their own.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down tells the story of Lia Lee. Lia was barely three months old when she had her first epileptic seizure. Born into a large family, her parents, Nao Kao and Foua Lee, were Hmong refugees from Laos who didn 't speak a word of English. While their culture dealt with illness through shamans or txiv neeb, Lia’s seizures were so serious that they decided to take her to Merced Community Medical Center, a county hospital that had a renowned team of pediatric doctors. However, none of those doctors spoke the Hmong language. This initial encounter gave way to a series of collisions brought on by a difference of language, a difference of religion, and a difference of world view which caused a myriad problems that resulted in a tragedy of medical and emotional proportions for Lia, her family, and her doctors. The author is painfully self-aware about her own limitations within a culture that isn’t her own yet that doesn’t stop her from exploring the issues presented in the book with incredibly gravitas.

Demonstrating where and why this culture clash brought…
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