Nursing Education & Events

Book Club: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Saturday, April 09 2022, 9:00-11:00 am, Zoom,


The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. Participants will receive a copy of the book then meet for a facilitated discussion.

Publisher Comments:

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness and healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, qaug dab peg — the spirit catches you and you fall down — and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.


"Ms. Fadiman tells her story with a novelist's grace, playing the role of cultural broker, comprehending those who do not comprehend each other and perceiving what might have been done or said to make the outcome different." Richard Bernstein, The New York Times

"An intriguing, spirit-lifting, extraordinary exploration of two cultures in uneasy coexistence...A wonderful aspect of Fadiman's book is her evenhanded, detailed presentation of these disparate cultures and divergent views not with cool, dispassionate fairness but rather with a warm, involved interest...Fadiman's book is superb, informal cultural anthropology eye-opening, readable, utterly engaging." Carole Horn, The Washington Post Book World

"I cannot think of a book by a non-physician that is more understanding of the difficulties of caring for people...or of the conditions under which today's medicine is practiced." Sherwin B. Nuland, The New Republic

"So good I want to somehow make it required reading....The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down explores issues of culture, immigration, medicine, and the war in [Laos] with such skill that it's nearly impossible to put down." Linnea Lannon, The Detroit Free Press


Anne Fadiman is the Francis Writer-in-Residence at Yale. Her first book, "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down," is an account of the unbridgeable gulf between a family of Hmong refugees and their American doctors. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, among other awards. Fadiman is also the author of two essay collections. The London Observer called "Ex Libris" "witty, enchanting, and supremely well-written." NPR said of "At Large and At Small," "Fadiman is utterly delightful, witty and curious, and she's such a stellar writer that if she wrote about pencil shavings, you'd read it aloud to all your friends."

Discussion Facilitators: 

Anne Poppe, PhD, MN, RN has experience in gerontology, critical care, spinal cord injury, research, administration and nursing education.  Dr. Poppe earned her BSN, MN, and PhD in Nursing and BA in Sociology from the University of Washington.  She serves on the KCNA Finance, Programs, and Leadership Succession committees, Community Grant Task Force and Nursing Practice Special Interest Group. She also serves on the Board of Psi-at-Large Chapter of Sigma Nursing Honor Society and is a member of the Association of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals.

Pauline Lao, DNP, ARNP is a Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner at Valley Medical Center. She earned her BSN and DNP degrees at the University of Washington and completed a fellowship in Geriatrics & Palliative Care. Pauline currently serves on the KCNA board of directors and on the KCNA Scholarship and Program Committees. She is also a member of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. 

Who Should Participate: Registered Nurses

Registration Deadline: March 15, 2022 or until full.  

Register early, we have limited the attendance for this event to 50 participants in order to create a book club discussion format.


•Participants will receive a Zoom link invitation prior to the event.

•Upon evaluation submission, participants will receive a certificate of completion for 2.0 hours that meets the continuing competency requirement for license renewal in Washington State

• Books will be mailed upon registration.

Cost: KCNA Members: $20, $40 Nonmembers