Wednesday, November 14, 2007

slow down in reviews

I see that I have been slacking on my book reviews lately. You can blame this on my video game habit. I apologize. Should I review my video games here as well?

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

By Anne Fadiman, published 1997

This is a non-fiction book about the conflict between the American medical institution and the recently-immigrated family of a young epileptic Hmong girl, Lia Lee. Fadiman does an excellent job telling each side of the story, so that the reader bounces from feeling that the whole messy situation is the Lee's fault for rejecting American medicine, to feeling it's the ignorant American doctors' faults for brushing off the wisdom of the family's culture. As the book progresses, the reader comes to realize it's much more complicated than assigning blame, and how the collision of two cultures can be so much more complex than anyone could guess. Along the way, the history of the Hmong is laid out, especially their role in the Vietnam War. The reader comes out of the story with a much deeper understanding of the Hmong people in particular and how America can do a better job in interacting with refugees in general.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cold Mountain

A kind of modern Odyssey, we see one main character making his way home and experiencing or escaping all sorts of adventures. Another main character learns patience and how to live in her world. Time and place are evoked in a very compelling way. Set in the closing days of the civil war, so there is plenty of violence here as well, both from self defense and from senseless lashing out. I was especially moved by the descriptions of Ada developing from a helpless girl to a self-reliant woman, learning to take control of her life and shape it to meet her needs instead of pining away when she found herself on her own.