THE SPIRIT CATCHES YOU AND YOU FALL DOWN by Anne Fadiman | Kirkus ReviewsThe Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia's parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Lia Lee died on August 31, She was thirty years old and had been in a vegetative state since the age of four. Until the day of her death, her family cared for her lovingly at home. But it is much more. People are presented as [Fadiman] saw them, in their humility and their frailty--and their nobility.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down Summary
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Anne Fadiman, Author
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down tells the story of Lia Lee , a Hmong child with epilepsy, whose tragic demise reveals the dangers of a lack of cross-cultural communication in the medical profession. When Lia was around three months old, her older sister Yer slammed a door and Lia had her first seizure. Her parents, Foua and Nao Kao, believed that the noise of the door had caused her soul to flee.
The book was written by Anne Fadiman, a journalist with some serious pedigree. Fadiman's father is Clifton Fadiman , a legendary editor, writer, and part-time quiz show host. After following her father's footsteps into the world of journalism, Fadiman stumbled across the story of Lia Lee, a young Hmong child more on them soon who's diagnosed with epilepsy. Fadiman was only planning on writing a single article about Lia, but after the piece was rejected by The New Yorker , she figured she might as well upgrade to a full-blown book. After the youngest daughter, Lia, is diagnosed with epilepsy, the family runs headlong into the stubborn American medical system—an experience made even more difficult by the fact that parents Nao Kao and Foua can't speak a lick of English. But that's not all, folks. You'll also learn about the history of the Hmong we told you so , including their migration from China to Laos, their participation in the Vietnam War alongside American soldiers, and their deeply mystical religious practices.
Thank you! Fadiman, a columnist for Civilization and the new editor of the American Scholar, met the Lees, a Hmong refugee family in Merced, Calif. In the Lees' view, Lia's soul had fled her body and become lost. Believing that the family's failure to comply with his instructions constituted child abuse, Lia's doctor had her placed in foster care. A few months after returning home, Lia was hospitalized with a massive seizure that effectively destroyed her brain.
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. 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.