Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down - May 2010

Forgot to post this book club meeting and discussion:

Here's a book summary:
The Hmong people in America are mainly refugee families who supported the CIA militaristic efforts in Laos. They are a clannish group with a firmly established culture that combines issues of health care with a deep spirituality that may be deemed primitive by Western standards. In Merced, CA, which has a large Hmong community, Lia Lee was born, the 13th child in a family coping with their plunge into a modern and mechanized way of life. The child suffered an initial seizure at the age of three months. Her family attributed it to the slamming of the front door by an older sister. They felt the fright had caused the baby's soul to flee her body and become lost to a malignant spirit. The report of the family's attempts to cure Lia through shamanistic intervention and the home sacrifices of pigs and chickens is balanced by the intervention of the medical community that insisted upon the removal of the child from deeply loving parents with disastrous results.

This compassionate and understanding account fairly represents the positions of all the parties involved. The suspense of the child's precarious health, the understanding characterization of the parents and doctors, and especially the insights into Hmong culture make this a very worthwhile read. 

This is a great book for a book club discussion even though the book might be outdated - I can see how this book is required for reading in many universities and departments. It was so fascinating to study the dynamics of the Hmong family and their interactions with the medical staff. I don't think any of us got to a specific solution of what could have been done better, but the need of interpretation for culture as well as language is key to addressing any issue, in this case health.

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