Earthway – Mary Summer Rain – September BBBR

Earthway: A Native American Visionary’s Path to Total Mind, Body and Spirit Health
Mary Summer Rain
Pocket Books, 1990
442 pages

Oops, almost missed this month–grad school has me exceptionally busy. But here it is, the Bargain Bin Book Review for September! I’ll admit, this is the very first book by Mary Summer Rain I’ve ever read. I’ve heard the praise and complaints about her work, but I wanted to find out for myself what the fuss is all about. Some people absolutely love her work, and some hate what they consider to be some of the worst plastic shamanism.

I’m afraid I’ll have to opt in with the latter group. Right off the bat, I was cringing from the pidgin English that “No-eyes”, Rain’s supposed mentor, was stuck with–“Nope, it just be fact”, from p. 26, is just one example. I’m guessing No-eyes is up there with don Juan Matus for being a fictionalized Indian presented as a flesh and blood human being. Trying to buy legitimacy with a made-up mentor = points off your final review.

This is subtitled “a Native American visionary’s path”. I found a hodgepodge of information from a variety of sources, including a ton of Western medicine, with some totem animals and other correspondences thrown in. There’s New Age dream interpretation material, to include a whole bunch of 20th century elements that wouldn’t have been a part of any traditional Native American culture. There’s what’s supposedly Anasazi astrology. And there’s a whole lot of medical advice being dispensed by someone who, to my understanding, isn’t a medical professional. Extra points taken off for an utter and complete lack of a bibliography or other notations of source material.

I can’t, in good conscience, recommend this book to anyone, either as a guide to healthy living, or indigenous spiritual and cultural practices–really for anything except as an object lesson in plastic shamanism. Now I see why so many people complain about this author’s work. This is some of the worst of the worst.

One pawprint out of five.

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3 Comments

  1. Kelley said,

    September 29, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Thanks for this! I’ve wondered the same!

  2. Lisa said,

    December 14, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I hear you on your at-a-glance reaction to MSR’s “Earthway.” You should check out her other titles “Trined in Twilight,” “The Tao of Nature,” “The Singing Web,” and “Eclipse,” etc. Also, see Wikipedia for more info

  3. Lisa said,

    December 14, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Understand the message in MSR’s books, not the veneer of outward aspects like race, class, or age.

    Also, Mary responds to a reader’s comment whose depth perception mirrors the “Cliff Notes” review above, “You made your mentor sound like a bumbling idiot with no sense of grammar”:

    “Since when do we criticize and put people down for their manner of speech? Is the manner of delivery more important than the wisdom conveyed through that speech? Since when are someone’s natural characteristics an embarrassment?”


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