Book Recommendation: “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”


Wow. Good book to read if you’re looking for one: “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman. A child from the Hmong immigrant community in Merced, California presents at the County Hospital with a severe form of epilepsy. Due to cultural differences, failures in translation between the medical community and the child’s family, and constant misunderstanding about the roles of medical intervention and traditional Hmong spiritual healing arts, the child’s life and health go haywire.

It’s a fascinating read, a cliffhanger, and shines a light on every person’s need to be treated as both a body and a soul. Interwoven within the story of Lia Lee, the child at the center of the book, is a history of the Hmong involvement with the Viet Nam war, a candid look into the thought processes of accomplished medical practitioners, a heartbreaking and enlightening investigation into the lives of resettled refugees, and many opportunities for meditation on how the west views children, childbirth, family planning, the foreigner, the mentally disabled, freedom and autonomy, family interdependence, money, gender, prayer, missionary work, foster care, government intervention in family life, etc.

There’s almost nothing this book is not about. Best thing I’ve read in a long time.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

About Elizabeth Duffy

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