The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Book CoverThe Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures — By Anne Fadiman

This is one of the most compelling works of journalistic nonfiction that I have ever read. It’s also one of the saddest and most disturbing books I’ve read. It’s the story of Lia Lee, born to a Hmong family in Merced, California. Lia has epilepsy– the title of the book is the Hmong term for this frightening condition. Over the next several years, Lia’s life is marked by multiple medical crises, and much mistrust and misunderstanding between her loving parents and her dedicated doctors, all of whom sincerely want the best for the little girl. The little girl’s case ends in disaster, despite many well-meaning (but often misguided) attempts at intervention, including removing her from her home.

This book is fascinating, fair-minded, and frustrating– it’s difficult to read this sad and very human story.

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