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Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down

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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down - Summary and Reading Log

Chapter 1 - Birth

Chapter 1 goes through the traditional birthing methods and traditions of the Hmong people. One of the most significant traditions is burying the placenta. The placenta has to be strategically buried in a specific spot under the homes dirt floor or when the person dies its soul has to travel back to the placenta. This chapter also introduces the characters Nao Kao and Foua Lee. Nao is husband and father of 13 children (some of which died at an early age). Foua is the mother and wife.

In the first chapter Nao gives birth to Lia Lee in an American hospital, their first child to be born in a hospital. Lia was born July 19, 1982. The baby appeared to be healthy and was released from the hospital 3 days later. The main focus of this chapter is comparing the birth of the children in Laos (where Nao and Foua were from) to the American birthing traditions

Chapter 2 - Fish Soup

This chapter explains different people’s perspectives of the Hmong people and the history of the Hmong. The Chinese people thought of Hmongs as dirty, barbaric humans. The Chinese people were not accepting of the Hmong and eventually the Hmong had enough of China and many Hmong migrated. Two very important traits of the Hmong that are expressed in this chapter are that they don’t like to take orders or to lose. The main point of this chapter is to give some background knowledge on who Hmongs are and why many of them migrated. The reason this chapter is called fish soup is because a Hmong boy is giving a presentation on how to make fish soup and spends all of his time explaining all the things you need to do before you make the soup then that actual recipe. This represents a lot about Hmong culture because it is said that if a Hmong tells a folktale he would begin with the very beginning of the world.

Chapter 3 - The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

This chapter introduces the beginning of Lia’ seizures... Her older sister slammed the door and she started seizing. This would be the beginning of many more seizures to come. In Hmong these symptoms were called quab dab peg which translates to, the spirit catches you and you fall down. The Lee’s were both happy and sad about Lia’s seizures. In Hmong seizures are considered to have special powers and usually become Shamans, but at the same time the Lees were worried about their child’s health. This chapter also starts to get into the problems with the language and cultural barriers between the American doctors and the Lee family.

Chapter 4 - Do Doctors Eat Brains?

This chapter describes the Hmongs concerns with the American doctors. Mao Thao, a Hmong woman who spent time living in the U.S. addressed the concerns to 15,000 Hmongs who had many questions about the American doctors. The main point of this chapter is to explain some of the reasons why the Hmongs feared American doctors and why they avoided the hospital at all cost.

Chapter 5 - Take as Directed

This chapter talks about the severity of Lia’s epilepsy and all the medications that Lia was placed on in order to try and tame her seizures. The Lee family had problems giving Lia the proper dosage of her medication. The MCMC staff has problems getting Lia to take her medication and getting her parents to give it to her. They didn’t know if her parents did not want to give her the medicine or if they didn’t know what to do. During one of Lia’s grand mal seizures that took place in this chapter she stopped breathing and had to have a breathing tube to keep her alive. The doctors start to believe that the seizures are causing retardation and that if Nao and Foua would give the child the medicine as directed she would be getting better. Neil (Lia’s doctor) decides that if the parents of Lia can’t give her, her medicine prescribed then she needs to be placed in the care of someone who can.

Chapter 6 - High-Velocity Transcortical Lead Therapy

This chapter touches on how the Hmong’s fears of the American doctors have an impact on their health. The Hmong think that the doctor is out to get them and they are afraid of them, therefore they avoid going to the doctor unless it’s their last resort. This chapter focuses on some of the conflict between the Hmong healing traditions and the doctor’s practice in medicine. The Hmongs took the doctors prescriptions as advice not as orders, and they did whatever they wanted regardless of what the doctor prescribed, but at the same time if they left the doctor’s office without being prescribed something, they felt cheated. The doctors and the Hmong have many problems communicating because of the language barrier and cultural barrier. This makes it hard for the doctors to try and treat someone, and some of the Hmong’s healing techniques aren’t acceptable and considered abuse in America.

Chapter 7 -Government Property

In this chapter Lia is taken out of her home into the foster care because her parents weren’t following the doctor’s orders. She was placed back with her family but they still were not giving Lia the proper dosage of her meds so she was sent to live with a Foster family for 6 months. Her parent missed her terribly, but could not get her back until the 6 months were up and they proved they were capable and would give Lia her medications as directed. Dee, Lia’s foster-mom told the authorities that Lia should be placed back in her home, but they refused until the six months was up. If after 6 months Kao and Foua could not prove they could take care of Lia, they would permanently lose her. Lia returned home on April 30, 1986.

Chapter 8 - Foua and Nao Kao

This chapter explains how the narrator was introduced to the Lee’s. She wanted to research their history and look through Lia’s medical records. She was worried that the Lee’s would not want to talk with her, but to her surprise they were very nice, warm people. She had a girl named May Ying to translate, and she learned a lot about the Hmong culture, the Lee’s experiences with the



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