Chapters 7 & 8

Chapter seven of Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down chronicles the events of Lia Lee following her parents’ loss of custody of her. Her departure from her family and anyone who understood Hmong proved to be difficult as it impeded with the staff’s ability to communicate effectively with her about the circumstances she is currently in and consequently being able to calm her down. Lee had been reported to be somewhat problematic on every scale, save for checks for affection. She was aggressively expressive with no one to understand her fully. However, in the growing days, it was understood that she often cried out for her family, particularly her father. Despite the drastic differences between the Hmong and the Americans, there is a universal grievance that is felt when one is separated from their family.

Chapter eight focuses on Foua’s visitations while Lia is placed under foster care. While she had lost custody of Lia due to what the government considered “abusive parenting” as a result of her negligence with Lia’ medication, her actions in this chapter proved otherwise. Foua became incredibly distraught at the thought of losing her daughter for reasons she could not understand and for reasons she could not fight. She showed great compassion for her children and has proven to be a highly devoted mother; the negligence described by the government was not committed out of malice, but rather it was out of love for Lia and belief in the practices of her culture. It was extremely powerful to see this softer side of Foua, especially through snippets of her dialogue, and it was very moving to see that, despite my frustrations with the Lee family in prior chapters, that she cared deeply for her children and it was more the lack of autonomy with regards to language and culture that made her feel powerless in helping her child.

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