Literature Studies “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman Essay

The book called “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall” by Fadiman explores the views upon the illness and its nature from the anthropologic point of view comparing various healing techniques practiced by the professionals of Western Medicine and legit the shamans of the Hmong people from Laos living in the USA. In the story of a little Hmong girl called Lia, the two healing practices clash eliminating each other, and as a result, the girl ends up losing most of her crucial brain functions.


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The author of the book focuses on the differences of moral perception of the diseases by the American doctors and the Hmong shamans, emphasizing that living in Laos Lia’s mother gave birth to twelve children without any issues, she raised them healthy and well (Fadiman, 2012).

The problem with Lia occurred and worsened because her parents decided to treat her disease commonly known as epilepsy employing the means from both western and non-traditional medicine. Fadiman emphasizes that culturally both practices are useful and efficient, yet they are completely incompatible with each other morally and practically. This is why the remedies prescribed by the American doctors and by the shamans destroyed each other’s effects and the girl’s condition gradually became more complicated and dangerous.

The author applies cultural relativism viewing the two very different approaches towards sicknesses, their causes, nature and ways of addressing them and demonstrates that cultural ignorance of the American doctors and the Hmong shamans towards each other’s techniques and methods combined with the cultural and informative confusion of Lia’s parents caused the ultimate breakdown of the girl’s health.

Reference List

Fadiman, A. 2012, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.