The book ‘The spirit catches you and you fall’ covers various topics and themes, but the main themes and points of reference are about the two cultures that are trying to interact with both having differences. From the book readings, the author Anne Fadiman artistically articulates her thoughts blended with her experiences and interactions with some of the characters in the book. The book and the storyline gradually get the readers to understand and view or feel life the same way the Hmong people felt when in America and some of the struggles that they went through trying to interact with a different culture.
Anne Fadiman knows how to stylistically lay out her thought and capture the attention and emotions of the reader. An example of her impressive skill is illustrated when she first introduces the lee family and their tragic and sad story in America. The lee family is first brought up in the book when their daughter Lia Lee is said to have experienced a medical emergency that is associated with the condition that she has been having (Gradesaver.com, 2022). The author gives out emotionally captivating details and, to some extent enraging about the account of events that take place on the eve and during the morning of thanksgiving for the Lee family.
From the introduction o the first incidents and encounters of the Hmong people that lived in America, the story clearly defines some of the struggles and difficulties that they went through. The Lee family’s treatment in dire need of their daughter’s help is disheartening and inhumane. The author illustrates how the parents of Lia who are Foua and Nao Kao, had to rethink carrying their sickly daughter on their backs to the hospital and instead opt to try and call an ambulance this time because they thought that with an ambulance, their daughter would be handled as an emergency patient and given proper help in good time. Another impactful and dreadful instance that the Lee family encountered in their long list of encounters is when communication between them and the ambulance dispatcher did not seem to have a breakthrough, yet they had an urgent emergency that was not treated as such.
Assimilation is often an adaptation that seamlessly happens, especially after an individual or group stays or leaves in a certain place for a considerable period. In the case of the Hmong people who lived and interacted with Americans, it is no different from many other cases of refugees and the interactions and reactions that they are given by locals, especially when they try to get any help or association with them. While going through the book, the Hmong people came out as indigenous people who were used to some specific rituals and cultures, but despite that, when they came to America, they had started adapting to the American culture even though at a slower pace.
The doctors at the hospital treated Lia’s parents with total disregard and absolute disrespect when they rudely tried to address Lia’s foster parents about her health condition because they were white Americans, so they considered them more intelligent than Foua and Nao, who were Lia’s birth parents (Fadiman, 1997). This sort of treatment was the norm for the Lee family and almost all the Hmong people who had lived in America, so despite their efforts, they were considered less important and probably lesser humans. Another instance where the Hmong people were disregarded is when Foua is asked why they had taken their daughter to the other hospital, and they answer by saying that they were told that their daughter’s doctor was not around and that they were on holiday.
Numerous interactions show how inhumane the Hmong people were treated. For instance, at the hospital, where the doctors are supposed to have some humane connections with their patients, the Lee family and Lia Lee were just treated as another customer because the doctors had observed that she had serious diarrhea but did not bother to mention or look because it would have been more work for them; instead, they opted to struggle with controlling her condition by injecting sedatives. The doctors had also performed a spinal procedure on Lia without her parents’ consent, who was shocked to learn about it.
I do not believe that the Hmong people needed to put more effort or responsibility into assimilating into the American culture. Assimilation would have meant that they abandoned their culture because, in most cases and instances, they were mistreated or not considered because of their beliefs and culture, meaning that the Americans did not like their culture and beliefs. The utter disregard that they were accorded would not have changed even with their assimilation. For instance, the doctors at the hospital did not even try communicating; they just assumed that Lia’s parents were illiterate. This type of discrimination would not have magically changed into cohesion.
Suppose there was to be any chance of assimilation. In that case, the American people should have shown some signs of tolerance and courtesy towards the Hmong people, who were new to the American way but were willing to learn and adapt. Given that the Hong people were new to the American way, they had made efforts to catch up, for instance, calling the ambulance, yet they initially carried the patient on the back and ran down the block. In conclusion, the Americans should have also been welcoming and created a comfortable atmosphere for the Hmong to adapt and start learning the American way.
Fadiman, A. (1997). The Spirit Catches You, and You Fall. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Gradesaver.com. (2022, March 29). The Spirit Catches You, and You Fall Down. Retrieved from Gradesaver.com: https://www.gradesaver.com/the-spirit-catches-you-and-you-fall-down/study-guide/character-list#