PTPI Blog


Discussion Question 4 for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

April 24th, 2014

Question answered by Karen Hoch.

4. What do you or will you do differently to help bridge the cultural gap in your life (such as in your career, your family, your community, etc.)? 

It was very interesting to get insights from Anne Fadiman on the cultural barriers that exist in America’s medical society.  Of course, it would be narrow-minded to think this is only a challenge in the medical field.  It overlaps into so many areas of life that impact people daily, which one may or may not be conscious of.

I am fortunate to work for PTPI, an organization that focuses on bridging cultural gaps and breaking down barriers between people of all backgrounds.  Along with my colleagues and PTPI volunteers we have provided opportunities to do so through educational conferences, travel programs, humanitarian efforts, and hosting international visitors, to name a few. It is rewarding to continue to advocate for peace by bringing people of different cultures ‘face to face’ to break down barriers and create mutual respect and understanding.

I strongly believe in the importance to teach our children to be accepting of other cultures from an early age.   We can do this by education, having them interact with other cultures, and leading by example.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.


Discussion Question 3 for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

April 21st, 2014

Question answered by Whitney Eriksen Chang.

3. The narrative account of Lia’s story is interrupted every other chapter with background information about Hmong history and culture. Why do you think Anne Fadiman structured the book this way?

Question 3 Quote

The years I spent studying literature and journalism dictate the way I read, whether I’m reading a novel or a magazine article. Knowing the author’s journalistic background, I was especially interested in how she would frame this complex biography. Her choice to intersperse important historical information among Lia’s narrative was intentional; and after finishing the book, I see the great benefits of organizing it this way.

Although jarring at times, leaving Lia’s story with a cliff-hanger to read the ancient history of Hmong wartime, I believe Anne’s method helped me to stay engaged with the characters as more was revealed about the root of their motives.

On page 171, after patiently recounting the unthinkable hardships the Lee family (and the Hmong as a whole) experienced before Lia’s medical story began, Anne voices an observation that is startling: “Violence, starvation, destitution, exile, and death were, however horrific, within the sphere of known, or at least conceivable, tragedies. What happened to Lia was outside of that sphere.”

At this point in the book, the reader has gotten to know the Lee family through their encounters with American medicine, and has probably at times been in disbelief (perhaps also frustrated). The interjections of historical background are constant reminders that the Lees’ story is much deeper than their life in California. This statement on page 171 reveals that having the background top-of-mind is very important in truly understanding why the Lees resist the doctors’ suggestions and instead grow herbs in the parking lot of their apartment. It is the only way the reader has some insight into their deep-rooted beliefs on illness and healing that most of us in the West cannot fathom.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.


Discussion Question 2 for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

April 16th, 2014

Question answered by Eileen Purkeypile.

2. Over the centuries, the Hmong people have been displaced by different groups. What role has displacement played in the Hmong culture?

 Question 2 Quote

The Hmong people have faced displacement since the 1950s – during a civil war, the Vietnam War, and resettlement up until 2009. As a people, the Hmong have faced repression and have been forced to flee several countries while facing discrimination and human rights abuses. I believe this ongoing refugee status has helped make them the self-protective people they are today, especially as seen in Lia’s family.

The Lees are noncompliant to the instructions given by the medical team handling Lia’s case. This is somewhat of a natural response to protect their way of life and health and spiritual beliefs. I believe the the Lees and many other Hmong have become accustomed to doing what they believe is best for their families and their people in light of the oppression they have faced in the past.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.