The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
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. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced,... show more
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. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. 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. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
Publish date: September 30th 1998
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages no: 341
Edition language: English
, Book Club
This is a fantastic work of journalistic nonfiction. It begins with a toddler, Lia Lee, living in California in the 1980s. The daughter of Hmong refugees, Lia begins suffering epileptic seizures as an infant, but her treatment goes wrong as her parents and the American doctors are unable to understa...
This book is in equal parts eye-opening and cringe-worthy. The latter because the reader has the benefit of seeing both views of different cultures: Western medicine and cultural beliefs / superstition -- and their inevitable clash, on account of their inability to meld. Caught in between is the lif...
Medical books seem to get high ratings. Emperor of maladies has an average 4.33 but severe narratology problems in second half. Many patients reading in hospitals probably.Looks to be error. By tartar straux..., Waugh iPad spell correct t. Farrar straux2/5 but readership loves this bookokkay got of...
Wow, I had heard good things about this book, but I didn't expect to be so moved by this alternately fascinating and frustrating story. The author does a fantastic job of telling the story from both points of view: the American doctors' and the Hmong family's. She manages to present both groups symp...
The most important and difficult moment of this book:"That's tyranny," said Sukey. "What if you have a family who rejects surgery because they believe an illness has a spiritual cause? What if they see a definite possibility of eternal damnation for their child if she dies from surgery? Next to that...