Books by M.D. Mehl-Madrona

Released: Feb. 18, 1997

A treatise on ``half-breed'' medicine that partakes of both Anglo and Native American traditions but is at home in neither. Mehl-Madrona, who now teaches family-practice medicine at the University of Hawaii, offers two books in one. The first is an account of the education of a doctor, one that often veers into self-importance (``I have always believed I have a mission on earth'') but that may prove instructive for anyone tempted to enter medical training. The second is a look at Native American healing practices, and it is even less satisfying. The literature of Native American medicine is already peppered with naive and uncritical texts that suggest that healing techniques can be divorced from their cultural contexts and readily adapted elsewhere. Mehl-Madrona contributes to this notion of mix-and-match doctoring: ``The medicine passed in a dipper around the circle,'' he writes in a description of a healing ceremony. ``Everyone took a sip. Then we passed the dipper again, pouring water on our heads to open the crown chakras.'' (Hanta yoga, anyone?) The author, who claims Cherokee ancestry, is clearly a longtime student of Native American traditions, and he discusses some of them with welcome clarity. He inclines, however, to a mysticism that will discomfort some readers, as in his description of an encounter with a curious rattlesnake during healing ceremonies in the Arizona desert (``its head rested on my shoulder, and its rattle massaged my foot''). Elsewhere Mehl-Madrona writes, ``Native American spirituality is a gift to us from North America itself. . . . Native American people have been preservers of this spiritual path for centuries, but they do not own it.'' This position is likely to appall cultural purists, but it will comfort browsers in the great department store of spiritual salves that is the New Age. (Author tour) Read full book review >