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Lia Lee was born in 1981 to a family of recent Hmong immigrants, and soon developed symptoms of epilepsy. By 1988 she
was living at home but was brain dead after a tragic cycle of misunderstanding, overmedication, and culture clash: "What
the doctors viewed as clinical efficiency the Hmong viewed as frosty arrogance." The Spirit Catches You and You Fall
Down is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, written with the deepest of human feeling. Sherwin Nuland said of the
account, "There are no villains in Fadiman's tale, just as there are no heroes. People are presented as she saw them, in
their humility and their frailty--and their nobility."