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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Best book ever!

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, is easily one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. Fadiman chronicles the life of Lia Lee, a girl born in California to Hmong refugees, who began to exhibit signs of epilepsy when she was three months old. Lia's parents believe that epilepsy is a condition caused by a spirit who, essentially, stole Lia's soul. Her doctors are faced with the immense task of trying to halt Lia's seizures, which are frequent and severe, all the while dealing with a family that speaks no English and does not believe in administering Western medicine to their daughter--or anyone else--on a continuous and possibly life-long basis. Fadiman intersperses Lia's story with history of the Hmong people, which is fascinating. Driven out of virtually every land they inhabited, the Hmong people began settling in the United States after being recruited by the US to fight in Laos during the time of the Vietnam Conflict.

The Spirit Catches You was so interesting in part because of the author's readiness to deal with the cultural issues that exist in countries like the US and, I would imagine, Canada. I'm from Miami, as I've said, and Miami is a largely Hispanic city (over 50 % of the population is Latin, with whites and African-Americans bringing up the rear as minorities). I am white and I don't speak Spanish--and I've always found it difficult to live in a city that I consider to be my own (I was born and raised there) but that almost requires me to speak Spanish and align myself with a culture to which I don't naturally have much of a connection. So it was kind of weird to read The Spirit Catches You and be able to feel empathy for Lia and her family, who were obviously utterly bewildered and scared, and also to be able to understand the position of the American doctors, who couldn't understand why the Lees weren't able to conform to the Western standards that the doctors felt would save the Lees' daughter. It's hard to interact with people whose values and belief systems are so different from your own.

Anyway. I don't know if I'm explaining this well at all, so suffice it to say that the book was excellent, I loved it and couldn't put it down.

4 Comments:

  • Woman! I read that at LC for my medical anthropology class and I LOVED it! I couldn't put it down! Isn't it so fascinating? Why aren't you here? We could read and knit all day long together! :(

    By Blogger Kristen, at 11:11 AM  

  • Who gave this book to Tasha to read??? Me! :) I loved it too.
    There, that is my comment.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 11:36 AM  

  • i am expecting you to bring it to work with you on tomorrow. i can't not read it now. its always nice to have reader's around whose opinions you trust. it saves so much work.

    By Blogger al, at 2:40 AM  

  • Yeah i couldn't finish that book. I tried but too much... non-fiction for me. But i did pass it on to my friends mom so... it will get loved some where i'm sure.
    Aundra

    By Anonymous Aundra, at 11:51 PM  

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