2005 DB Essay Contest Guidelines

Essay Topic

The fierce independence of the Hmong created substantial barriers to integration into American society with dire consequences for Lee. The traditional metaphor for America as a melting pot nation is based on the concept of America as a nation of immigrants. The accuracy of the metaphor and concept can be challenged because the first implies assimilation while the second ignores Native Americans. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down asks us to consider all aspects of assimilation. In what ways and for whom is cultural assimilation desirable or possible? Why might assimilation be resisted or difficult? In exploring these questions, you may find that the lessons learned from Fadiman’s book influence your perspective on such diverse topics as the trial of the Hmong hunter in Wisconsin, the growing Hispanic population in Alabama, and even the demographics of the Hurricane Katrina devastation in New Orleans.


To be eligible to submit an essay, you must

  • be a currently enrolled student at UAB as of the contest deadline; or
  • be employed as a faculty member at UAB as of the contest deadline; or
  • be employed as a staff member at UAB as of the contest deadline.
  • Members of the 2005 UAB Book Discussion Committee* and their immediate family are not eligible.

    Submission Requirements

    Essays should be approximately between 500 and 1,200 words in length.

    The first page of your submission must provide the following information for your entry to be eligible:

    Your name and category (freshman student, student, faculty, staff)

    UAB mailing address and telephone number if you are a faculty or staff member; current mailing address and telephone number if you are a student

    E-mail address

    The statement: “This essay is my own original work. I understand that, if selected as a winning essay, it may be posted on the Discussion Book Web site, appear in UAB publications, or distributed by UAB without additional compensation to myself.”

    No name or identifying information should appear in your essay or on any page other than the first page.

    You are required to submit your essay electronically to mkurata@uab.edu.

    All entries must be received by noon, March 15, 2006.

    Selection Process

    Essays will be reviewed on the following criteria:

  • The essay demonstrates an understanding of the issues in Fadiman’s book.
  • The essay demonstrates the writer's serious reflection on the question.
  • The essay is focused and well-reasoned.
  • The essay is written clearly, with correct spelling and grammar.
  • Essays will be reviewed by members of the UAB Discussion Book Committee*.

    A UAB Discussion Book Award certificate and $100 will be awarded to the author of the best essay in each of four categories:

    Freshman students

    Students other than freshmen



    The Discussion Book Committee reserves the right to not award a prize in any category if the number or quality of entries is deemed insufficient.

    Winners will be notified by March 2006.

    * 2005 UAB Discussion Book Committee: Thomas Alexander, Carolyn Braswell, DeeDee Bruns, William Cockerham, Robert Corley, Allan Dobbins, Michael Froning, Josephine Jackson-Banks, Sheri Long, Marilyn Kurata (chair), Max Michael, Lindsey Nobles, Groesbeck Parham, Dale Turnbough, Janice Vincent.

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