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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7181.471 (Published 13 February 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:471
  1. Caroline Richmond, writer and editor in medicine and biosciences
  1. London

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    Anne Fadiman

    Farrar Straus and Giroux, £7.73, pp 352

    ISBN 0374 525 641

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    Merced is a town in a depressed area of California's central valley with a population of 61 000. A fifth of the population are Hmong refugees, and the proportion is growing as the Hmong value children and have plenty of them. Most of the older Hmong are illiterate, speak no English, and live on welfare benefits. The younger ones do well, rather better than white children in school and at university. No one knows where the Hmong originated; they are lighter than most Asian people and don't have an epicanthal fold to their eyes. They reached China over 1000 years ago, and in the past century responded to persecution by migrating on foot to …

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