Chapter 9 & 10

Chapter 9 of Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down further develops the idea that Lia Lee’s parents are not neglectful of their child, but rather, they cherish her deeply and they have been attempting to heal her using the best of their ability and cultural knowledge. Having come a long way since the beginning of the biography, Lee’s parents have transformed in the reader’s mind from stubborn individuals who seemed to prioritise their cultural norms over the well-being of their daughter to caring parents who would sacrifice monumental time, effort, and money to ensure their daughter’s happiness. What many of the American doctors who had come to encounter Lia and her parents did not realise is that while their parenting appeared to be ‘ignorant’ or ‘neglectful’ but western standards, the Lee family had invested over $1,000 in healing amulets and $300 for a cow sacrificed in Lia’s honour. Considering they were a family of nine who lived on $9,480 a year, these large purchases, relative to their yearly income, indicate that Lia’s parents are willing to take on further financial burdens in hopes of doing what they believe will help their daughter the most. Amongst other attempts to help Lia, such as attempting to change her name to Kou in order to confuse the dab, this had the most impact on me because having been in financially troublesome situations, I cannot imagine what it is like to sustain a family of that size for a year given 1/5 the amount of money below the poverty line and still choosing to sacrifice a large part of that for the betterment of someone else. My parents have not been in such an extreme situation, but we did not live wealthily. Despite our financial hardships, they have sacrificed a tremendous amount to ensure my well-being. Because of my family, I have come to appreciate individuals such as Lia’s parents that so readily put their children ahead of themselves despite the difficult, unforeseen challenges ahead.

Chapter ten focused on the history of the Hmong, particularly during times of war where they were recruited by Americans to fight. What was fascinating was that this chapter bolstered the idea of what it means to be Hmong. Their culture fosters a sense of resilience, independence, and strength; as a result, it made perfect sense that the Hmong soldiers were described as scrappy fighters and that they have proven themselves to be worthy as guerrillas during the Second World War. They were tough, savage, and almost primitive in a way. This draws an interesting parallel to modern day Hmong, such as Lia Lee, her parents, and other Hmong individuals. It reminds me of how the pregnant Hmong mothers were often considered to be head-headed, strong, and stoic. It appears if individuals from this culture have developed a ruthless sense of survival and their innate toughness and self-sufficiency had endured for years.

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