Merced Summary

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This book is a wonderful medical anthropology narrative written by reporter Anne Fadiman who investigated the case of a young Hmong girl, Lia, who is stricken with an acute seizure disorder. Lai’s family came from Laos shortly after Foua, her mother, gave birth to her in the traditional Hmong way – by herself, in her own house – the same way she gave birth to numerous other children, 7 of which survived to move to the United States. The family settles in Merced, California, and shortly after arriving, Lia begins to experience acute seizure episodes, which prompt her family to take her to the hospital in Merced. Here begins a long period of struggle between the Hmong family and their American doctors – Lia’s family believes that she is destined to become a shaman because she is possessed by spirits, and the American doctors see a little girl with a serious problem.

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