Book Report



BookReport: “TheSpirit catches you and you fall Down”

Thebook “TheSpirit catches you and you fall Down”is an objective narration of the struggles and challenges a familyfaces in the process of identifying with a new culture in modernlife. To capture this significant experience, Anne Fadiman gives achronicle of the experiences that the Lee family faced when trying tointegrate into the American culture in Merced, California. The bookpresents the differences in culture between the two societies and howthey contribute towards the challenges of social cohesion. Throughthe narration, Fadiman shows the dangers of cultural differences,especially when a culture clashes with doctors on matters of health.The story of a young Lee is well presented in the novel that thispaper reports on.

Thestory of the Lia family and the ailing child is based on theirunderstanding of two cultures, their Chinese culture and the Americanculture. According to the Hmong tradition of the lee family, themother, Houla gave birth to twelve children in a residence built ofnative materials. The family had healthy family, probably because ofbelieving in the powers of txiv neeb. To the Hmong, txiv neeb is areligious power believed to take care of the sick souls of theChinese families (Konner, 1997). According to the Hmong tradition,the healing of a family member takes place when the txiv neeb powersfly and frees a soul from the detention of a bad spirit they calledthe dab. With this believe, their platform was set for a clash oftheir tradition with the American treatment led by science.

Thestory of lee begins at her tender age of three months when she getsher first seizure resulting from epilepsy. As an epileptic child, Leefaces several seizures for the following moths which included threevisits to the emergency room for medical attention (Fadiman, 1997).The story of her ill epileptic condition takes a turn in the novelwhen her parents decided not to take attention of the doctor’sinstructions. In particular, lee’s parents give her the doctor’smedication inconsistently and finally avoid giving her the treatment(Konner, 1997). However, at first, they seemed to cooperate with thedoctors, but after some time, their cultural opposition of thewestern medicine became dominant, consequently they refused to givethe young lee the prescribed medication.

Froma cultural perspective, parents love their children and they would doanything to keep them safe. This was the case in the story as theyalways sought to give her the best according to their judgment inthis case, traditional healing (Fox, 2005). Consequently, after aseries of seizures, it was clear that the family did not follow theorders of the doctor. Their focus was on the connection with lee’sseizure with the healing powers of the txiv neeb (The Book Rags,n.d). Despite avoiding the doctor’s instructions, it was clear thatthey loved their child. This angered the American doctors, with onedoctor taking a legal action. He went to court and got an order tothat authorized taking away of the young lee for medical attention.

Thisshows that in the case of cultural clashes there is a need forpeople to take decisive actions that are meant to bring greater goodto the society. Despite the resistance from the parents, the doctortakes an ethical decision to help take good medical care of theepileptic lee. However, such actions do not guarantee health or showthe superiority of one culture over the other. When she is returnedhome, the parents change their attitude and comply with doctors(Konner, 1997). However, she continues to experience seizures thatare now accompanied by a new bacterial infection. It is unfortunatethat she further experiences brain damage when she is returned to theparents, who were expecting her healing.

Ultimatemisunderstanding is the ethical description of these events thatbefall the young lee in relation to the parents against the doctors.According to Fox (2005), such misunderstandings arise from culturaldifferences that dominate and seek to get extremely differentinterpretations of a situation that seems to be mysterious. The caseof the young lee was mysterious, especially when she suffered herworst seizure, at the age of four years. This time, even the doctorwho was treating her could not do anything, as he proposedtransferring her to another doctor (The Book Rags, n.d). To shock thedoctors, who believed she would die lee went on to live in avegetative state for twenty six years, when she died of pneumonia inCalifornia (Fadiman, 1997).

Byusing Lia’s family, Fadiman presents the differences between theAmerican culture and the Hmong culture. The book exposes the need formore dialogue on the integration of cultures through awareness of therole of modern medicine. Unlike the Hmong who perceive the conditionsof their patients from a religious angle, modern doctors view it as amedical situation that requires medical attention. Moreover, thedifferences in culture would be avoided by enhancing theunderstanding of different practices based on culture. Thisperspective of exposing the community makes the book a significanttool of expressing the world as seen from different angles.


Fadiman,A. (1997). TheSpirit Catches You and You Fall Down,Macmillan

Fox,R. C. (2005). &quotCultural Competence and the Culture of Medicine.&quotNewEngland Journal of Medicine.2005 353:1316-1319

Konner,M. (1997). Take Only as Directed:Whenmedicine butts up against traditional belief, tragedy ensues.Retrieve From,&lt 7, 2014

TheBook Rags. TheSpirit Catches You and You Fall Down Study Guide.RetrieveFrom, &lt 7, 2014