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Freshman Reading Project: Welcome

fadiman spirit

Each year the Honors Program selects a book to be read by all incoming first-year Honors students. The Freshman Reading Project promotes community through the common experience of reading and discussing a thought-provoking text. We ask that all incoming students read the book before arriving at Baylor in the fall.

New Honors Program students will attend the Honors Freshman Assembly in Bennett Auditorium on Wednesday, September 4, 7:00-9:30 p.m. At this assembly, a noted speaker will address ideas brought forth from the reading-project text, and you’ll sign up for a small-group discussion led by upper-division Honors Program students. After the small-group discussion, you will write a brief (roughly 3 pages) critical essay in response to an assigned essay prompt. These essays will be evaluated by the discussion leaders and will be kept on file to serve as the basis for awards occasionally given by the Honors Program. Note: Successful completion of the Freshman Reading Project is required for continuation in the Honors Program.

The Text

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a national bestseller, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, and the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Here is a summary of the book taken from the Barnes and Noble web site:

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 were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run 'Quiet War' in Laos. 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 the 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 anti-convulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices. 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.

About Anne Fadiman

Anne Fadiman is an essayist and reporter. Her essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, among other publications. She is the only writer to have won National Magazine Awards for both reporting and essays. Fadiman has also edited a literary quarterly, The American Scholar, and two essay anthologies. As Francis Writer in Residence at Yale University, she teaches nonfiction writing and serves as a mentor to students who are considering careers in writing or editing.

Purchasing the Book

You can purchase The Spirit Catches You and Your Fall Down at the Baylor University Bookstore during Orientation, though the book can also be found at many other traditional and online retailers.

Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1998)

ISBN-13: 978-0374-53403

Freshman Assembly: Wednesday, September 4

The Honors Freshman Assembly will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 4, in Bennett Auditorium. Bennett Auditorium is located at the east end of Draper Academic Building.  Please mark this date on your calendar.