Summary on the Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman

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The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman is a very interesting book. It’s amazing how difficult it is for Americans to understand other cultures because the United States is such a diverse country. However, as an American, I understood the frustrations that Lia Lee’s doctors’ felt when trying to diagnose and treat her properly. In this book both the American doctors and the Hmong peoples faced many hardships and barriers when trying to communicate with each other. After having read this book I can understand where both groups were coming from and reasons for their actions. I could only imagine the level of difficulty and anger that the doctors and Lia’s parents must have experienced over that time period.

The two items that I will be discussing are questions one and two. Looking at the Lee family from a psycho-social perspective, I would say that they are a very close nit family who value their culture. The wife, Foua is very independent in the sense that she gave birth to all of her children except Lia, without any help or assistance from anyone. Also because she worked in the fields all through her pregnancies. The husband, Nao Kao is a very loving, and supporting to his wife and children. The Lee’s value their beliefs and believe strongly in their customs. They possess close nit ties to other Hmong people and although they were taught their own healing remedies, they are somewhat accepting of western customs as well.

While reading this book, I identified many problems and stressors. Some of them include the language barrier, which made it hard for doctors to ask questions like what’s the problem, where does it hurt, how bad is the pain, etc. The language barrier also made it hard for doctors to explain diagnosis and prescriptions. We as Americans view hospitals as helpful, so it’s difficult for us to understand why the Hmong are so against going to them to receive care. American’s system of education is more textbook, and often consist of proof that led us to certain conclusions. Therefore we kind of expect everyone else to kind of follow that same code and have a hard time when they don’t. The doctors were over worked and underpaid, which added additional stress to the situation. The fact that the American doctors called Child Protective Services because they did not understand the Hmong cultural cures for sickness. For example, the Hmong believe that putting a small cup of heated ashes against the skin will heal certain sicknesses but Americans saw it as a sign of child abuse. Other problems leading to stress include, re-hospitalization of patients for the same problem, not being sure if medication is being given properly, difficulty in knowing what medications are working better than others, having a cynical view of the Hmong culture, and not having enough patience.

Some problems and stressors from the Lee’s perspective are the same as the ones I previously identified but for different reasons. For example, the language barrier was an issue because the Lee’s can’t speak or read English. Therefore they did not understand what their daughter’s doctors diagnosis. They didn’t understand the paperwork that they were often asked to sign and they also couldn’t read the prescriptions to medicate Lia properly. The Lee’s didn’t really see Lia’s epilepsy as a sickness. Instead they thought it was an honor and that she possessed certain qualities that would later make her a shaman. Due to their culture, the Lee’s didn’t really trust the doctors and they often said the doctors were making Lia worse. The Lee’s education is based on experience, customs, and folktales that have been passed down from previous generations. They don’t understand science the way Americans do. The Lee’s viewed hospitals as mostly dirty and unkind to the Hmong. They were very skeptical of westerners although they had turned to them for help before. When the doctors called Child Protective Services on the Lee’s they thought the doctors...
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