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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

Anne Fadiman

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Lia’s parents and her doctors both wanted what was best for Lia, but the lack of understanding between them led to tragedy. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest, and the Salon Book Award, Anne Fadiman’s compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest. ______ 
Lia Lee 1982-2012


Lia Lee died on August 31, 2012. She was thirty years old and had been in a vegetative state since the age of four. Until the day of her death, her family cared for her lovingly at home. 

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THE SPIRIT CATCHES YOU AND YOU FALL DOWN (Chapter 1) Birth

If Lia Lee had been born in the highlands of northwest Laos, where her parents and twelve of her brothers and sisters were born, her mother would have squatted on the floor of the house that her father had built from ax-hewn planks thatched with bamboo and grass. The floor was dirt, but it was clean. Her mother, Foua, sprinkled it regularly with water to keep the dust down and swept it every morning and evening with a broom she had made of grass and bark. She used a bamboo dustpan, which she had also made herself, to collect the feces

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  • NYU Journalism Primary Sources: Anne Fadiman

    Ted Conover interviews Anne Fadiman about her new book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

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REVIEWS

Praise for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

“Superb, informal cultural anthropology—eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging.” —Carole Horn, The Washington Post Book World

“This is a book that should be deeply disturbing to anyone who has given so much as a moment’s thought to the state of American medicine. But it is much more . . . People are presented as [Fadiman] saw them, in their humility and their frailty—and their nobility.” —Sherwin B. Nuland, The New Republic

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down changed how doctors see themselves and how they see their patients. Anne Fadiman celebrates the complexity and the individuality of the human interactions that make up the practice of medicine while simultaneously pointing out directions for change and breaking readers’ hearts with the tragedies of cultural displacement, medical limitations, and futile good intentions.” —Perri Klass, M.D., author of A Not Entirely Benign Procedure

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Anne Fadiman

  • Anne Fadiman was born in New York City and was raised in Connecticut and Los Angeles. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a wilderness instructor in Wyoming before returning to New York to write. She has been a staff writer at Life, editor-at-large of Civilization, and editor of The American Scholar. Fadiman is also the author of Ex Libris and At Large and At Small, and the editor of Rereadings. She now lives with her family in western Massachusetts and serves as the Francis Writerin-Residence at Yale.

  • Anne Fadiman Connie Miller
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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

Anne Fadiman

Boston Book Review - Winner, L.A. Times Book Prize - Winner, National Book Critics Circle Awards Winner
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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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