BFS Turns 150

One Book, One BFS: The Spirit Catches You and Then You Fall Down

This summer the English Department assigned The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down  to the entire High School and faculty.  The purpose was to create a stronger and more enduring  bond between  the students and faculty. Author Anne Fadiman has written a gripping account of a culture clash between a newly arrived Hmong family in  and the medical establishment.  The Lees are a refugee family from Laos. Their daughter Lee has epilepsy. There is no stigma connected  to this disease in Laotian culture. In fact, it is considered an honor. The book recounts the trials and cultural misunderstandings between the Lees and their doctors.

In this book, one sees that even the brightest and most well intentioned medical specialists can often not grasp cultural  and social cues with sad and very tragic results. It is an amazing read. This book has changed not only  my perception and understanding of America and the American medical establishment but also America‚Äôs standing in the world  and our treatment of our immigrant population. This is a must read.

In September, there was an Upper School Collection, in which, a talk was given by BFS alumnus ,Steven Magagnini, a reporter for the Sacramento Bee. Mr Magagnini spoke movingly of the plight and obstacles faced by these newly arrived Laotians.He is an expert on the Hmongs, having written a series of award winning articles about them for his newspaper. Following his talk, there were student led discussion groups.I served as a faculty facilitator on one of these groups. The discussions were thought provoking and very insightful.The reading of The Spirit Catches You and Then You Fall Down has proven to be not only a fascinating read but a rich and rewarding experience for all concerned.