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“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman Essay (Book Review)


Introduction

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a book about a little girl who had continuous epileptic seizures. Her parents thought she had some supernatural gift and took good care of their daughter. The following paper is to reflect on the context of this book and to discuss its impact on a reader’s understanding of it.

A Little Medicine and a Little Neeb

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the most popular publication of Anne Fadiman, which changed the author’s philosophy and particular viewpoints on her life. One of the fascinating fragments of this book is the ninth chapter. “A Little Medicine and a Little Neeb” – this is the title of the chapter, which I will be reflecting on below. The first episode describes the reunion of Lia’s family because the little girl was back from the hospital.

The first thing that her family did to bolster their daughter’s health is sacrificing a cow (Fadiman, 2012). According to the plot, such ritualism was very common in Hmong (town) because the local people were very superstitious. All people of this ethnic society were sacrificing animals regularly.

The act of sacrificing a cow was somewhat unreasonable because these people were ready to do anything in order to save their daughter. They left the little girl in a hospital to give her proper medical treatment. I did not understand the purpose of this ritual because the parents already knew that their faith would not help their daughter to heal. On the other hand, I liked the contrast that was demonstrated in this chapter. American citizens that usually buy meat in the stores never see the process of killing an animal. Therefore, it seems to be wild and unusual for them. Although the government was against such practices, the population of Hmong and other ethnic groups continued to sacrifice livestock.

Nevertheless, Lia did not feel better because her brain was slightly slowing down. She was not able to think like a wise human anymore, which made her parents believe that medical treatment was not at its highest level. The parents did not know how Lia was treated by doctors. Nevertheless, the girl wanted to stay home instead of going to the hospital again. Furthermore, parents were giving her the right amount of medicine, which helped her to remain conscious.

This part made me realize that there are many people in today’s world who do not know how to take care of their children. As I could understand, the author wanted to draw readers’ attention to this problem. Lia’s parents are easily understood – they want to heal their daughter as fast as possible and to enjoy the rest of their days with her. Nevertheless, the parents did not know what they should have done in this case because Lia was given a wide range of medicine. All these medicaments together were unlikely to help at the same time. Perhaps, the author wanted to accent on this situation because she had some problems with her children and the ways of treating them.

Nevertheless, Lia returned to school for children with special needs, where she had one of the most continuous and severe seizures. Therefore, the girl was returned to the hospital, the conditions were much worse than at her parents’ home. At the end of the chapter, Lia caught an infection there. In my opinion, this chapter informs a reader mostly about the unwillingness of people from Hmong to accept that Lia was sick since birth (Harding, 2013).

They were sticking to their traditions and ways of healing all their lives, which always helped them in such situations. Nevertheless, Lia’s parents faced epilepsy for the first time in their lives. The Hmong population thought that doctors were not competent in a number of situations. These people were living within their own culture and beliefs for an extended period of time. Lia’s disease made people socialize and integrate into the country’s life and environment.

Although the shaman practices were not supported in the United States of America, some of their methods did not contradict the rules of traditional medicine. In my opinion, the ninth chapter of the book also refers to this topic because Lia’s parents thought it would be better for doctors to get acquainted with the Hmong practices and rituals to nurse Lia properly. Much suffering happened to the girl because doctors and parents did not want to know anything about one another’s methods of healing, even though both were present in her life.

I consider that Lia’s major seizure at school was caused by the indifference of both her parents and doctors to the way of her treatment (Xiong et al., 2016). Sometimes it seemed like a fight between two cultures, which tried to prove their righteousness against one another instead of concentrating on healing the girl.

Both communities (people from Hmong and American doctors) had to come to a mutual compromise and provide proper treatment to Lia, regardless of their beliefs and persuasions because sometimes the girl’s primary problem was left behind due to the contradictions between the two sides of the conflict. The doctors were concentrating on saving Lia’s life and wanted her to become an average person in American society, whereas her parents wanted to save Lia’s soul due to their faith, which said that there was life after death.

I have outlined some problems that were present in the text and influenced the situation above. The discussed chapter led me to ask the following questions:

  • What caused misunderstandings between the two societies?
  • What parallels did the author draw between her story and today’s society?

Although there were language, civilization, and understanding barriers between the two societies, the main issue on their way to understanding one another was a cultural barrier. I think that the author wanted to draw a parallel between this case and misunderstandings among different generations in today’s world (Hebenstreit, 2017). I see American doctors as an older and experienced generation, whereas Hmong people look more like adolescents because they do not follow the recommendations of others and do only what they consider right. Sometimes it seems like Lia is not the main character of the story because everyone in this plot makes decisions for the girl, regardless of her wishes.

Conclusion

The ninth chapter of the book by Anne Fadiman tells its reader about the ritual practices of Hmong shamans, which are unacceptable in American society. Lia did not receive proper medical treatment due to the contradictions between the two cultures (Hmong and American). This chapter addresses multiple issues that are present in today’s society. Nevertheless, the main point of this text is to demonstrate that nothing can be done properly if people neglect each other’s opinions, beliefs, and experiences. Moreover, the chapter shows that it is necessary to concentrate on the resolution of the conflict, instead of looking for some reasons that led to the problem.

References

Fadiman, A. (2012). The spirit catches you and you fall down: A Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Harding, K. (2013). The spirit catches you and you fall down. Practical Neurology, 14(1), 67-67. Web.

Hebenstreit, H. (2017). The national association of social workers code of ethics and cultural competence: What does Anne Fadimans the spirit catches you and you fall down teach us today? Health & Social Work, 42(2), 103-107. Web.

Xiong, S., Degroote, N., Byington, H., Harder, J., Kaminski, K., & Haglund, K. (2016). Engaging in culturally informed nursing care with Hmong children and their families. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 31(1), 102-106. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, November 13). "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-spirit-catches-you-and-you-fall-down-by-anne-fadiman/

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""The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman." IvyPanda, 13 Nov. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-spirit-catches-you-and-you-fall-down-by-anne-fadiman/.

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IvyPanda. ""The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman." November 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-spirit-catches-you-and-you-fall-down-by-anne-fadiman/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. ""The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman." November 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-spirit-catches-you-and-you-fall-down-by-anne-fadiman/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) '"The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" by Anne Fadiman'. 13 November.

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