University of Vermont

First Year Summer Read

First Year Summer Read

First Year Summer Read

Featuring Lecture and Book Signing by Author
Anne Fadiman

Anne Fadiman

Photo by Matt Valentine

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
7:00 p.m.
Ira Allen Chapel

26 University Place
Burlington, VT 05405

FREE - see ticket info below

Sponsored by President Tom Sullivan, the Department of Student Life and the Honors College.

For questions regarding this event, please contact (802) 656-3272 or email

The Summer Reading Program is a new student’s first introduction to the academic life of the university. Each year the selected book is integrated into foundation courses from each academic college for discussion as a way for students to engage with the book's themes both inside and outside the classroom.  All UVM first-year students were required to read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman over the summer for the start of their Fall Semester. The book is available for purchase in-person or online at the UVM Bookstore for a discounted price.

As part of the UVM First Year Summer Read Program, Anne Fadiman will be giving a campus lecture followed by a book signing on September 15.  The event is free, but tickets are required.


Tickets are available per the following schedule. Note: Tickets are limited.

  • Starting Monday, August 31, tickets are available to UVM FIRST YEAR Students Only (one ticket with UVM ID) at the Waterman Building, 3rd floor Student Service Center kiosk from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Starting Tuesday, September 8, tickets are available (one ticket per person) to the UVM Community, including students, faculty and staff as well as the general public, at the Dudley H. Davis Center, 3rd Floor Information Desk during business hours.

Book Signing

A book signing will immediately follow the event in the Ira Allen Chapel Books provided by the UVM Bookstore will be available for purchase.  No tickets are necessary for the book signing and it is open to the community.

About the Book

The Spirit Catachces You and You Fall Down

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 close-knit, 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. 

Anne Fadiman's compassionate account of this cultural impasse is literary journalism at its finest. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down moves from hospital corridors to healing ceremonies, and from the hill country of Laos to the living rooms of Merced, uncovering in its path the complex sources and implications of two dramatically clashing worldviews. 

More on Anne Fadiman

Last modified September 15 2015 11:11 AM