What we’re reading: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

13 Jun

Sitting on a plane two days ago, I had my copy of this book on my lap. Before we had even taken off, a woman sitting diagonally from me and the man sitting next to me both expressed, separately, how important this story is to them.

Growing up in Sacramento, I was aware of the Hmong community but unfamiliar with its beliefs or struggles. When a friend in medical school mentioned this book a year ago, I was interested in learning more about the Hmong but didn’t immediately see the connection to Sixteen. When I finally read it for the first time in April after learning that we’d be traveling to Vietnam and Laos this summer, I couldn’t put it down and I’ve read it two more times since then.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the true account of a Hmong family’s experience with western medicine as refugees in California. It describes the intersection of two very different belief systems in a way that evokes empathy for both, and poses unanswerable questions about cultural relativity and anthropology. Thanks to a fully funded DonorsChoose project, all Sixteen students will now have the opportunity to read Lia’s story together in September.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I still don’t know much; Fran knows that I reference this book far too often. But I’m looking to learn more before we leave, and now that I’m paying attention, the stories are everywhere. (Hmong women break with traditional roles, June 10; Home invasion kills Hmong shaman, June 11)

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One Response to “What we’re reading: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”

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  1. News from Room 402 / September 2012 « This is Room 402. - September 23, 2012

    […] account of a Hmong family’s encounter with western medicine as refugees in California. (I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in ethics, medicine, or culture.) We’ve touched on the work of […]

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