The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

  • by Anne Fadiman
  • Narrated by Pamela Xiong
  • 13 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
When three-month-old Lia Lee arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine.
When Lia Lee entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication. Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness and healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe while medical community marks a division between body and soul and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former.
Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness qaug dab peg - the spirit catches you and you fall down - and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Good audiobook but narrator struggles with basic pronunciation

This is a great narrative of medical anthropology. So my comments for people considering it aren't about the content of the book, but about the production quality of the audiobook. The narrator mispronounces truly basic English words so often that I was both amazed and distracted. Any right minded producer should have corrected these mistakes. I applaud this reader for her Hmong pronunciations, but the tone and pace of the rest of the text is pretty weird. I still recommend it, but you should know that going in.
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- Kate

Great Book but the narrator isn't great.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I really enjoyed the subject matter of this book, but was deeply disappointed with the narrator. Her poor pronunciations forced me to relisten to numerous parts of this book because I was unable to use context clues to determine the word. Sometimes these were words that failed to correspond to English phonics, but others should be a common part of a narrator's lexicon.


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- Kristen "krissy_a"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-18-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios