Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Anne Fadiman, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (339p) ISBN 978-0-374-26781-0
When two divergent cultures collide, unbridgeable gaps of language, religion, social customs may remain between them. This poignant account by Fadiman, editor of the American Scholar, of the clash between a Hmong family and the American medical community reveals that among the gaps yawns the attitude toward medicine and healing. The story focuses on Lia Lee, whose family immigrated to Merced, Calif., from Laos in 1980. At three months of age, Lia was diagnosed with what American doctors called epilepsy, and what her family called quag dab peg or, ""the spirit catches you and you fall down."" Fadiman traces the treatments for Lia's illness, observing the sharp differences between Eastern and Western healing methods. Whereas the doctors prescribed Depakene and Valium to control her seizures, Lia's family believed that her soul was lost but could be found by sacrificing animals and hiring shamans to intervene. While some of Lia's doctors attempted to understand the Hmong beliefs, many interpreted the cultural difference as ignorance on the part of Lia's parents. Fadiman shows how the American ideal of assimilation was challenged by a headstrong Hmong ethnicity. She discloses the unilateralness of Western medicine, and divulges its potential failings. In Lia's case, the two cultures never melded and, after a massive seizure, she was declared brain dead. This book is a moving cautionary tale about the importance of practicing ""cross-cultural medicine,"" and of acknowledging, without condemning, differences in medical attitudes of various cultures. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-374-70370-7
Acrobat Ebook Reader - 288 pages - 978-0-374-70008-9
Paperback - 341 pages - 978-0-374-52564-4
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-374-53340-3
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4299-3111-3
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