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Woman Who Glows in the Dark
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Elena Avila (1944-2011) is the author of the national bestseller Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. Before becoming a spiritual counselor, Avila studied nursing and psychiatric nursing. In addition to her book, Avila also wrote poetry, plays, and gave lectures throughout the United States. Joy Parker is the coauthor of several books including Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health, Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path, and The Sound of the Earth: A Man's Mid-Life Passage and Spiritual Awakening. Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a poet, trauma specialist, and Jungian psychoanalyst most recognized as the author of Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. She is also a spoken word performer and has performed with Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

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In the border towns of south Texas, the Mexican "folk" medicine called curanderismo is often regarded as witchcraftÄa means for hex removals and love divinations. Avila was therefore surprised to learn in her masters program in psychiatric nursing at the University of Texas that curanderismo is a broad-based fusion of Aztec, Spanish and African traditional medicines with hundreds of useful applications. This discovery, coupled with her dissatisfaction with the limitations of conventional mental health practices, motivated Avila, who grew up in a first-generation Chicano family in El Paso, Tex., to apprentice with an Aztec master and eventually to become a full-time curandera. Her first book, co-written with Parker (coauthor of Maya Cosmos), is a clear-sighted introduction to the fundamentals of this alternative healing practice. It describes the healers, who range from spiritual counselors to general practitioners and massage therapists; their counseling techniques, ritual purifications and soul retrievals; characteristics of common diseases; and formulas for achieving a balanced lifestyle, a rich spiritual life and good nutrition. The down-to-earth explanations of such afflictions as envidia (envy), susto (fright or loss of soul) and mal puesto (bad luck) will help dispel misconceptions about these "folk" ailments that, in curandero terms, are common to all people. Particularly thought-provoking is Avila's perspective on mainstream mental health and her preference for the holistic curandero approach to treating mental diseases, including psychosis and imbalances induced by severe trauma. "A good curandera," she writes, "can help us find the middle ground in a culture where balance, reality, and enlightened compromise are not always part of our support system." Agent, Elaine Markson; author tour. (Mar.)

Curanderismo is a kind of integrated medicine, an amalgam of African, Spanish, and Native American medical systems. Avila is a registered nurse who apprenticed herself to an Aztec teacher to learn this form of folk healing, and here she relates her journey toward becoming a curandera, a spiritual healer. Like other New Age medical practitioners, Avila believes that Western medicine is not responding adequately to the deeper needs of sick people, treating only the biological symptoms and neglecting the spiritual ones. Avila describes her training through a series of case studies recounting different healing experiences. The book is somewhat simplistic and uncritical, but as a study of a different medical belief system, it may be of interest to many public library readers.‘Helaine Selin, Hampshire Coll. Lib., Amherst, MA

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