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Student Created Readers' Guide

Created by IU South Bend Student Amanda Alvarado, Claire Parisi and Eirene Alexandrou (Clay High School Class of 2006), and Adam Grandison (Adams High School Class of 2006).

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  1. What did you think of the narrative style of the book? Why do you think Fadiman alternated between chapters describing Lia's crisis and chapters detailing this history of the Hmong?
  2. How would you describe the doctors and the Lees? How do your descriptions of their personalities affect your thoughts on the narrative?
  3. Do you think it likely Western medicine and belief systems from other cultures can ever come together in a positive way? Explain.
  4. Do you think Lia's parents were afraid of Western culture? Were the doctors afraid of Hmong culture?
  5. Discuss the literacy issues with the Lees and the hospital—how did the oral tradition of the Hmong versus the written tradition of the West effect Lia’s care?
  6. What do you think about Dr. Fife? Do you agree with the Hmong that he is a good doctor, or his former colleagues, who thought him mediocre? Why?
  7. Why does Fadiman go into such detail on Lia's medical history?
  8. How did you feel when reading about her seizures?
  9. What did you think when reading of the way the interns spoke about their Hmong patients in chapter 6?
  10. What did you think of the title of chapter 6? Explain.
  11. Does the interns comments, and the title of chapter 6 reflect any attitudes that you have about doctors, or stereotypes of doctors and their attitudes? Explain.
  12. Does reading chapter six give you an idea of why the Hmong have issues with U.S. health care-for example-the cultural taboos of things such as eye contact, blood tests, and spinal taps?
  13. Discuss Dr. Small's comments on page 73.
  14. What about the nurses' thoughts and attitudes expressed in the book? How does the working situation for nurses impact your thoughts about their comments?
  15. Discuss your opinions of Dr. Neil Ernst and Dr. Peggy Philp in the book-did it change as your continued reading?
  16. The events in this book take place in the 1980s. What changes do you think have been made to address some of the issues that were discussed in this book? What changes do you think have not been made, but would be beneficial?
  17. What was your reaction when you read that Lia had been taken into foster care? Explain.
  18. Do you think it was right or wrong for her to be sent to foster care? Do you think her parents were harming her? Should a nurse have been brought in instead? Why or why not?
  19. Should the Hmong culture be forced to conform?
  20. What do you think about the idea that Lia's seizures could be a blessing? There is a tradition in literature similar to this (epilepsy=genius). Why do you think this is? Does ones belief in faith or science play a role in this?
  21. Would Lia's parents have loved her as much if she were healthy? Why or why not?
  22. Discuss the idea of the American Melting Pot. Do we still love this idea? Is it true anymore? Why or why not?
  23. Imagine yourself in a society where everything is different-like it was for the Lees-not where just literacy is an issue, but everything being completely different-how would you cope?
  24. Do you think Fadiman provided balanced portrayals of the subjects in the book? Explain.
  25. Does this book make you feel more understanding of other cultures needs or less?
  26. Should American health care providers have an obligation to accommodate different cultural beliefs? How much do you think accommodation of different beliefs is already being incorporated into the system? How does health insurance, Medicaid requirements and liability figure into this?
  27. Is the American health care system better equipped to deal with a situation like Lia's than it was in the 1980s? Explain your answer.
  28. Is Fadiman's point of view biased? If so, cite specific examples.
  29. Think about Dan Murphy's quote on page 259.Do you second his opinion? Explain.
  30. Does the fact that the Hmong live in America mean that they should be required to agree with their doctors prescribed treatment? Explain why you would agree or disagree, and if you agree, explain how our government/medical community could work to provide care?
  31. Think about the threat of malpractice. How should this factor into the decisions of doctors working with people from different cultures?
  32. On page 261, Kleinman states that we should get rid of the term "compliance." What do you think of this suggestion and why?
  33. A number of cultural practices that are not seen in Western medicine, such as cupping and coining, are discussed in the book. What are some Western medical practices that other cultures might see as odd?
  34. Could there be unknown scientific reasons for some of the healing rituals of other cultures that Western medicine has not discovered because they are skeptical?

Last Reviewed: 03/2014