Tag Archives: American Healthcare System

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Thoughts   The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, Farrar Strause and Giroux 1997, 341+ pages*

MOTIVATION:    I have been wanting to read this for a long time because 1)  I enjoy NonFiction, 2)  Kim says it is terrific, and 3) Anne Fadiman is an author I’ve heard good things.   The WHY of the “why-now?” is because it was my choice to pick for book club and I wanted to choose something I didn’t think any one else would likely know to choose on their own.

p 257  “How can [doctors] know the future but not know how to change it?   I don’t understand it.”

REACTION:   I gave this 4 stars because as much as I enjoyed and was impressed with the author’s research, plus balanced and fair and heart-breaking telling, I was not in the mood to read what with the rush to get ready for the holidays and pressure to complete reading challenges.    And yet, that I gave it 4 stars shows it’s power and excellence that it could compel me to devote time and finish!

WHAT it’s ABOUT:    A young Hmong girl living in California has epilepsy and her parents who do not speak English; they take her to the local hospital when a seizure gets too scary.     Fadiman presents the culture of the Hmong against the challenges faced by the hospital staff and never assigns blame.      A fascinating anthropological study of one immigrant family’s beliefs, one slice of the American health care system and how it all clashes for this one little girl.      Complications and complexities!!!  and yet the book is readable, educational and sympathetic.     There’s a lot of love in this book, too.

p 106 “Looking over Lia’s sparse medical records form the spring and summer of 1986, around the time of her fourth birthday, [foster care notes] summed up the first few months… in 3 words:  “Nothing interesting here.”  The Lees would disagree.   …now the tables were turned, and a period that seemed uneventful from the doctors’ perspective was revealed, from the Lee’s perspective to be one of the richest in her life.

Please do read Kim’s review at her impressive blog Sophisticated Dorkiness and read why she gives this book her Perfect A+ Score.

updated: FizzyThought’s review is good, too.

updated again:   Jeanne of Necromancy Never Pays had some strong reactions to this book and reviewed it the same day I did!  and we both blame Kim for wanting to read it!  and we both thought it an excellent book… AND, the comments are great, too.

BOOK CLUB’s REACTION:    A few people didn’t get it completed but were enjoying it.   One member was impressed and glad that she had read it thinking that she never would have if it hadn’t been a club pick.   Another chose not to read the book at all  because “it hit too close to home” and she explained and we understood.    Someone mentioned that the reviews on Amazon included people mentioned in the book and that many found the book very fair in its telling which is amazing for such a sad tale where so much went wrong.   It was remarked that we have read two books this year that touch on the immigrant experience (the other was Zeitoun by Dave Eggers.)

p 183 …the Hmong are what sociologists call ‘involuntary migrants.’   It is well known that involuntary migrants, no matter what pot they are thrown into, tend not to melt.

We will be reading Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich for January.

p117 nosocomial = hospital-acquired
p119 montagnards = former term for Hmong from French ‘from the mountains’


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