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

Author(s): Anne Fadiman

Biography & Memoir

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, 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 independent 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.


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Superb, informal cultural anthropology--eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging. Carole Horn, The Washington Post Book World This is a book that should be deeply disturbing to anyone who has given so much as a moment's thought to the state of American medicine. But it is much more . . . People are presented as [Fadiman] saw them, in their humility and their frailty--and their nobility. Sherwin B. Nuland, The New Republic The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down changed how doctors see themselves and how they see their patients. Anne Fadiman celebrates the complexity and the individuality of the human interactions that make up the practice of medicine while simultaneously pointing out directions for change and breaking readers' hearts with the tragedies of cultural displacement, medical limitations, and futile good intentions. Perri Klass, M.D., author of A Not Entirely Benign Procedure"

Anne Fadiman was born in New York City and was raised in Connecticut and Los Angeles. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a wilderness instructor in Wyoming before returning to New York to write. She has been a staff writer at "Life," editor-at-large of "Civilization," and editor of "The American Scholar." Fadiman is also the author of "Ex Libris "and "At Large and At Small," and the editor of "Rereadings." She now lives with her family in western Massachusetts and serves as the Francis Writerin-Residence at Yale.

General Fields

  • : 9780374533403
  • : Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc
  • : Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc
  • : July 2012
  • : 211mm X 141mm X 25mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 368
  • : Paperback / softback
  • : Anne Fadiman