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’s standing in the world and our treatment of our immigrant population. This is a must read.