The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

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Spirit Catches You Essay

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a book by Anne Fadiman about a Hmong family (the Lee’s) that moved to the United States. It deals with their child Lia, her American doctors, and the collisions of those two cultures. In Fadiman’s unbiased book I learned that there are many cultural differences between Hmong and Americans concerning opinions, stubbornness, and misunderstandings. To begin with, a cultural difference between Hmong and Americans are their opinions about Lia’s medical condition. “When Lia was about three months old, her older sister Yer slammed the front door of the Lee’s Apartment” (Fadiman 1997:20). After slamming the door Lia’s eyes rolled in the back of her head and she fainted. The Lee’s believed that the door slamming was so frightening to little Lia that “her soul had fled the body and become lost” (Fadiman 1997:20). That is the Hmong belief of what happened; while the American belief is that she has epilepsy and had a seizure at that time. It was very interesting to me reading about the different views of what happened to Lia. The Hmong believe that sacrifices and rituals should be done to entice Lia’s spirit back into her body. The Lee’s also had a “txiv neeb (“person with healing spirit” (Fadiman 1997:21)) who was to perform a healing ceremony for Lia” (Fadiman 1997:279). The American doctors believed she needed to be taking medication to get better. They prescribed some medicine for Lia but her parents wouldn’t give her the right amounts. They weren’t being bad parents; they just didn’t fully understand the instructions for the medicine and thought that it wasn’t helping anyways; maybe even making her worse.

Another cultural difference I learned from this book about Hmong and Americans was that Hmong are very stubborn. Lia’s parents wouldn’t take her to the hospital until they knew it was an emergency. I learned that “Hmong do not take orders; that they do not like to lose; that they would...
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