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Date of issue: January 13th 2011
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Language: English
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When Lia Lee, the 13th child in a family of Hmong refugees who had settled in Merced, was three months old, she was diagnosed with severe epilepsy. The series of events that cascaded from this diagnosis illustrate the potential thorniness of cross cultural interactions. Everyone wanted the best for Lia - especially her devoted parents and the dedicated doctors and staff at the hospital where she was repeatedly treated. But the parents' and hospital staff's inability to communicate with one another or to respect one another's special knowledge led, ultimately, to tragedy. I found myself at times wanting to reach into the pages and throttle the parents for their seemingly willful misinterpretation of the doctors' intent. And in the next moment, I cringed and wanted to do the same to the often culturally obtuse doctors. It is a testament to Anne Fadiman's skill as a writer, and probably to the quality of her character, that she is able to present every side of this narrative with sensitivity and compassion. It is a heartbreaking story and a cautionary tale.


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