Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Review: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down; A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

Have you ever been drawn to a book? Have you ever been looking through a shelf at the library or book store and one says to you, "pick me, pick me"? It has happened to me only a few times in my life, the most recent being this one. I was at my local library looking through a number of books that had been donated but that the library did not want on it's shelves for one reason or another, they were all marked .25 cents. I picked this book up and it spoke to me, the picture on the cover, the unusual title, it just said you have to read me and find out what I am all about.

This story is heart wrenching. It is about a refugee family from Laos that is relocated to the United States. The only possessions they have with them; their family and their culture, which they cling to desperately. Their infant daughter suffering from epileptic seizures is brought to the local county hospital for treatment and the story unfolds revealing a clash of Western and Eastern medicines with a young child caught in the middle. This is not the usual case of the parents either declining treatment or insisting on non-standard treatment. These parents want treatment but do not even understand how to administer the prescribed medicines and are sent home expected to comply and then held accountable for the care of their daughter who is at one point placed into state custody because of their non-compliance.

Anne Fadiman's writing is incredibly rich and easy to get caught up in. If you have ever wondered about our medical system and why sometimes you feel like you are running into a brick wall to get the help you know you need but can't find the right avenue to get it you will understand the dilemmas in this story. I don't want to give too much away but I can say I learned more about the Dr./patient relationship, our medical system, the Hmong and their culture as well as enjoyed the beautifully written story.

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