The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

11 08 2010

Earlier this year, I took part in a fellowship designed for leaders of New York social service organizations.  The fellowship and program lectures explored topics including cross-cultural competency, the changing demographics and needs of New York City’s population and coalition-building between organizations.

We were gifted a book titled The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman that details the experience of an immigrant Hmong family that attempts to navigate the medical system in Central California.  The book alternates between a narrative about the Lee family, and historical and cultural information about the Hmong people.

The book is just shy of three hundred pages, and I’d strongly recommend reading at least the first 150.  Not only are the Hmong a fascinating people, but the book poignantly illustrates the need for cultural competency and the acute challenges that face the medical establishment when dealing with minority and less-understood groups.  (The opening chapters are quite humorous, as well.)

Let me know if you end up reading the book!

posted by amybetho




7 responses

11 08 2010

hey! you left your copy at home and i just read it last shabbat! i thought it was yair’s

12 08 2010
rach g.

or it might have been mine. i had to read that book for freshman orientation at brandeis and it’s still at home…

amy and yair- reading your blog with such happy-for-you jealousy. it really sounds awesome to be tooling around the country seeing national parks.

btw – glad you’re including pics in the post.

12 08 2010

Thanks for letting us use your camera! It’s awesome!

13 08 2010
rach g.

i’m glad it’s getting some good use! keep the pics coming…

12 08 2010

@Jess: Yup, it was probably my copy. Yair and I both read it in Costa Rica, and I gave it to Mom right before we left for Cali. I recommended this book as well as another book called “By Way of Deception”, which is an insider account of Mossad activities. Take it with a grain of salt, but still fascinating stuff.

Did you make it through the whole book? What did you think?

@Rach: Too funny. Did you end up reading it? Discussing it at freshman orientation? Thanks for the encouragement. I think that I’m most excited for Burning Man at the end of the month. But I would love to see you and Jonny and (sorry, but) especially Gavi! Would you like to join us in the RV for a few days or a week?

Love you both.

12 08 2010

Cool, I read that book. My mom had to read it for Genetic Counseling school and I just picked it up once…

12 08 2010

hey amy!
yeah, i’m getting to the mossad book next…it’s sitting in my room. i made it through the whole Hmong book…some parts were long but it was definitely informative and interesting to learn about the culture, and more importantly, the significance of embracing rather than shunning other cultures to achieve the best results for everyone…good lesson to learn if i ever actually get to do third world medicine

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