The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

By Anne Fadiman

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997

Genres: nonfiction, social sciences, anthropology, cultural studies, medicine

ISBN: 9780374525644

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 341 (including Notes, Bibliography, and Index).

Setting: Mostly set in Merced, CA, but also includes places where the Hmong have lived – including China, Laos, & Thailand, and other cities in the US.

Time period: Early to mid 1980’s (but the book also covers different times in the Hmong’s history – including America’s secret war in Laos)

 

Description: When Lia Lee, a Hmong child, was an infant, her older sister slammed the door on her way out.  Immediately afterwards Lia suffered her first epileptic seizure and Lia’s parents took her to the hospital.  Thus began a frustrating and strained relationship between Lia’s parents and hospital staff.  Language barriers and cultural expectations prevented Lia from getting the right care for her, leaving her in a tragic state of being. Continue reading

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Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer

By Rosita Arvigo with Nadine Epstein and Marilyn Yaquinto

Place: Publisher & Year: San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994

Genres: Non-fiction, ethnobotany, anthropology, autobiography, biography, traditional medicine

ISBN: 9780062502551

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 190

Setting: San Ignacio, Belize

Time period: 1980’s (1981- 1993, most of the book’s story is 1981-1987)

Plot summary: When Rosita moves to San Ignacio, Belize with her husband and daughter, they have dreams of establishing a farm along with their medical practices, but find life quite challenging.  When Rosita meets Don Elijio Panti, a well known Mayan healer in the area, she asks to become his apprentice.  She has a thirst for knowledge about the local plants and his healing techniques; she also recognizes that Don Elijio’s knowledge was in danger of becoming lost to the world if he didn’t pass it on to someone else.  Don Elijio, however, politely denies her request thinking that the Mayan spirits would not accept a gringa.  She also had no sastun.  In spite of his rejection, Rosita regularly visits Don Elijio, helping and learning from him.  Eventually, Rosita receives a sastun, and her apprenticeship begins in full. Continue reading