Fadiman

Topics: Culture, Epilepsy, Humanities Pages: 3 (486 words) Published: April 30, 2015

When it comes to illness, how it is perceived can vary depending on culture. How one culture views and treats an illness may be completely different than another. These different views and opinions can often cause cultures to collide when a doctor is summoned to treat an individual of a different culture than their own.

Anne Fadiman’s book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, tells the story of an epileptic Hmong child and her collision of two cultures. Lia Lee began suffering seizures at a young age and was diagnosed with epilepsy by American doctors. Her family however believed her illness was caused by soul loss (Fadiman 21).

While at the hospital, Lia’s family was unable to communicate with doctors at first due to their being no one there that could interpret their language (Fadiman 26). After a few more trips she was ultimately diagnosed with epilepsy, which was different than her parents diagnosis of spirits causing their daughter to fall down (Fadiman 28). Lia’s parents failed to administer her medications as instructed which caused her condition to worsen as she grew older (Fadiman 48).

The inability to communicate as well as the different views of what caused Lias illness resulted in what Fadiman would consider to be a collision of cultures. With Lias parents unable to give her the correct dosage of medicine as well as their belief that spirits were causing her seizures, American doctors clashed with the Lee family. They were unable to efficiently treat her due to her parent’s cultural background.

In Janelle Taylor’s article, she states that the tragedy of Lia Lee occurred due to the way the two different cultures affected the way her illness was understood by the different groups (Taylor 164). With doctors unaware of the Lees family interpretation of the illness and their inability to communicate about it, Lia was not able to get the treatment she needed.

The collision of the two cultures occurred due to their lack of efficient...

Bibliography: Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012. Print.
Taylor, Janelle S. "The Story Catches You and You Fall Down: Tragedy, Ethnography, and ' 'Cultural Competence"" Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 2nd ed. Vol. 17. Arlington: Society for Medical Anthropology., n.d. 159-81. Print.
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