Review: …and You Fall Down

“I have come to believe that her life was ruined not by septic shock or noncompliant parents but by cross-cultural misunderstanding.” page 262


The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, my edition 1998 (first published 1997).
Nonfiction, 341 pages +reader’s guide.
Not leveled.

This is the story of a severely epileptic Hmong girl and the family and doctors who wanted what was best for her but disagreed about what that was.  It’s also the story of the Hmong people in America, and their experiences with the medical establishment.

The Spirit Catches You resized

This is technically a re-read.  However, I didn’t remember much, so it was like reading a new book.  The primary story in this book is Lia’s life and the friction between her family and the medical staff caring for her, but it has a wide scope.

Continue reading “Review: …and You Fall Down”


Web: Lia and the Hmong

At first I was going to try to fit these links into my review… but they just made it far too long, so here are some further links for tomorrow’s review.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my review of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.  I hadn’t planned to add this book to my collection, however, as A. M. Blair stated in her review, it can be reread at different stages of life.  Already my reactions to it as a parent are now drastically different then when I read it before.

After rereading this book, I looked for other books about the Hmong-American experience.  Two Wisconsin books are Mai Ya’s Long Journey and Hmong in the Modern World.  There’s an early chapter book called Pa Lia’s First Day.  Pang Xiong has a series of children’s early readers.  Several memoirs also exist.

The Atlantic also has an interesting article about Hmong in Wausau (an area of central Wisconsin).  The court case described is definitely worth reading about.  The article also mentions this song as a source of inspiration:

This last one is a bit of a spoiler, so you may want to stop now if you haven’t read the book yet…

Lia lived for an extraordinary 26 years in a persistent vegetative state due to the loving attention of her family.  This article reviews the book and includes information on her 2012 death.