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Book Review: The Spirit Caches You and You Fall Down

Book Review: The Spirit Caches You and You Fall Down Your name Course name Course instructor Date of submission Book Review: The Spirit Caches You and You Fall Down In her compelling book “The Spirit Caches You and You Fall Down,” award winning novelist Anne Fadiman plays the role of a cultural broker between the American community and a Hmong family living in the U.S. Through this true life story, Fadiman highlights some of the weaknesses in the American health care system, a health care system that many consider to be the best in the world. Published in 1998, the book depicts the struggle of a Hmong family, the Lees, and their favored and youngest daughter Lia Lee. Lia has been diagnosed with severe epilepsy by American doctors in Merced, California. Unfortunately, cultural conflict between her parents and the American doctors obstruct her treatment. “The Spirit Caches You and You Fall Down” is a captivating and riveting piece of work that is a must read not only for journalists, anthropologists, and medical professionals, but for all those who want to negotiate cultural differences in a cultural diversified world. This book is valuable book in the study of cross cultural medicine. Among the personal stories and scholarly studies published and recorded within the past two decades, this masterpiece digs deeper into the hidden crevices of the interface between different cultures. The book attracts anyone who is interested in understanding the dynamics of power in the relationship between doctors and patients. It is also appealing to those people who can get some inspiration in one family’s dedication and love to a chronically ill child. In fact, this book allows the reader to reflect upon some things that have been taken for granted. There are several themes that have been clearly brought out by Fadiman in this book. The first and the most significant theme in this book is the theme of cultural dissonance. As a result of their shamanistic animism beliefs, the Hmong believed that evil spirits usually seek human souls, particularly those of unloved or vulnerable kids. Therefore, Lia’s epileptic condition was seen by her parents as a journey into the spirit realm, therefore should be used to help others. Unlike American doctors who cut into and touch the bodies of patients, the Hmong people discuss ailments in terms of spirits and souls, but not the physical body. Because American doctors wanted to use a variety of powerful medicines and drugs on their daughter, Lia’s parents refused this and took their child back home. This clearly shows how the American and Hmong culture was conflicting. The second theme that has been brought out in this book is the theme of love. The doctors showed love to their patients by holding on firm to their treatment method although the patient’s parents and culture was against it. On the other hand, Lia’s parents showed love to their daughter during her vegetative state. After the failed treatment, Lia ends up in a vegetative state. During this time, her parents had nothing to do but give their child all the love they could and cater for her needs. The third theme in that is evident in this book is the theme of duty. Doctors in this case needed to accept the notion that along with their medical treatment, they had to give room for the Hmong’s idea of the soul. Accepting duty means doing everything possible to ensure that the work is done. In this case, both the parents and the doctors lost the battle because they could not work together. Note that this story shows us that nothing works out without compromise. Since therapeutic relationships should be goal oriented and directed at growth promotion and learning, I would have used reciprocal communication strategy in this case. This strategy entails a give a take situation, thus it would have enabled me and Lia’s parents to agree on the best way of helping the child. In this case, we could have brought both cultures together and reach an amicable solution of helping Lia. Reference Fadiman, A. (1997). The spirit catches you and you fall down, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.



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