Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1206 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Anne Fadiman tells the story of the effects of culture clash in medical care as she tells the story of Lia Lee and her medical treatment. The Hmong are an old and strong culture from Laos. They have fiercely defended their culture and their ways whether invaded by another country or living among people of a different culture. When they began moving to the United States, they brought their passionately strong feelings about their culture and beliefs with them. Among the Hmong, "the spirit catches you and you fall down" is how they explain epilepsy, the condition Lia Lee has.

The Hmong, a minority tribe of Laos, have extensive spiritual beliefs regarding physical health and the causes of illness. They also have specific ways of opening conversation that demonstrate that the speaker does not intend them any harm. Lia's doctors, unaware of these cultural complications, approached her situation logically and clinically, an approach that was completely alien to her Hmong relatives. The family believes she should be treated with animal sacrifice and prayer, both practiced in highly ritualized ways. The medical staff does not understand the gulf of beliefs between them and the Hmong family they are working with.

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The Lee family has good reason to trust their beliefs. They fled Laos after the Chinese toppled their 600-year monarchy, and then attempted to "cleanse" the country of the minority Hmong. They were used as cannon fodder in the war and starved. The Hmong fled to Thailand, where they were recaptured and forced back to Laos and an almost concentration-camp like life. After three years of persecution, they fled again, avoiding both Lauotian and Vietnamese soldiers, back into Thailand.

After a year in a Thai refugee camp, where over 80% of the Hmong were malnourished or otherwise ill, the Lees emigrated to the United dates. They settled in Merced Calfornia. They were illiterate but proud, and did not intend to assimilate. In fact, they had come to the United States to resist forced assimilation in Southeast Asia.

Term Paper on Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: Assignment

The Hmong came to the United States for the same reason they had left China in the nineteenth century: because they were trying to resist assimilation." (p. 183) Sociologists would call them "Involuntary migrants (p. 183). However, they were not intimidated by the many strange things they saw in the United States, because they were Hmong, not Americans. Fadiman reports that the Hmong learned American ways only when they supported their desire to stay in touch with other Hmong. So they learned to drive and to use the phone, because that supported their keeping ties with fellow Hmong. However, they had no interest in learning English (p. 189)..

Unfortunately it was quite difficult for the Lee family to maintain their Hmong beliefs about family. In what sociologists call "role loss," the men in the Hmong community had great difficulty finding work, the mothers had difficulty functioning as they thought mothers should, and as the children learned English in school, they suddenly became more important than they would be in traditional Hmong life, because they could translate (p. 208). These proud people had difficulty understanding what was and was not acceptable behavior; in Philadelphia, Hmong used crossbows to hunt pigeons.

They were confused to find that they were not welcomed with open arms by the Americans. The CIA had made promises to them. Those promises were not fulfilled in Laos, so they expected them to be fulfilled in the United States. They did not view welfare as a gift but as payment they earned in Laos, and could… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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