Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, July 13, 2020

This is the true story of a young white woman, Erica Elliott, who comes to the Navajo Reservation in 1971 as a newly minted schoolteacher, knowing nothing about her students or their culture. After several blunders and misunderstandings, and beset by loneliness and despair, Erica makes a determined effort to overcome the barriers of language and culture. From the moment she begins learning the Navajo language, the people open their hearts and homes to her, inviting her into a world that will profoundly impact the rest of her life.

Erica falls in love with her Navajo students—along with their enchanting land, healing ceremonies, and rich traditions. She witnesses many miracles during this time, and experiences her own miracle when the elders pray for her healing. She survives fearsome encounters with a mountain lion and a shapeshifting “skin walker.” She learns how to herd and butcher sheep, make fry bread, weave traditional rugs, and more.

Erica returns years later to serve the Navajo people as a medical doctor in an under-funded and under-staffed clinic, where she treats myriad ailments, delivers countless babies, and performs emergency procedures. When a medicine man offers to thank her with a ceremony, more miracles unfold.

Print Length: 202 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Balboa Press
ASIN: B07PGSTYWS
ISBN-10: 1982220988
ISBN-13: 9781982220983

Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert is now available to purchase in print and as an e-book at Amazon.com, IndieBound.org, and Barnes and Noble. Add it to your GoodReads reading listing as well.

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert by Erica Elliott, M.D., please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on July 19th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author

Erica Elliott is a medical doctor with a busy private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A true adventurer, she has lived and worked around the world. She served as a teacher for Indigenous children on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and in the mountains of Ecuador.

In 1976, she was one of the first American women to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. She taught rock climbing and mountaineering for Outward Bound and, after her first year of medical school, she led an all-women’s expedition to the top of Denali in Alaska.

In 1993, Erica helped found The Commons, a cohousing community in Santa Fe where she continues to live. She gave a TEDx talk about living in cohousing. Referred to affectionately as “the Health Detective,” she treats patients who come to her from all parts of the country with mysterious and difficult-to-diagnose illnesses. Erica is a frequent radio guest and has given workshops at various venues, including Esalen and Omega Institute.

Find her online at:

Author website: https://www.medicineandmiraclesinthehighdesert.com/

Professional website: http://www.ericaelliottmd.com/

Blog site: https://www.musingsmemoirandmedicine.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ericamelliott



-- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulation on your book Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert! What led you to write this memoir?

Erica: When I lived with the Navajo people 50 years ago, I kept a detailed diary. I knew that what I was experiencing was far outside the reality in which most white people lived. That realization prompted me to carefully document the extraordinary world I had entered.

When I shared my diary with friends and family, they strongly urged me to write a book about my life on the reservation. I remember my response: “No one will ever believe that this really happened.” As I grew older, when being believed was no longer a concern, I spent most of my energy practicing medicine and taking care of my patients, with no time left over for writing.

When the election of 2016 happened, a close friend said to me, “Now is the time to share this story with the world. It is a profound healing story relevant to these divisive times.” Those words galvanized me into action.

WOW: I think it's amazing you knew right away how profound the experience would be. I love how this memoir is about your journey to find the true purpose and meaning of your life. How did living and working with Navajo people do that?

Erica: Ever since I was a young girl, I knew I had a purpose in life, but I had no idea what that purpose was. As a young schoolteacher, I witnessed the transformative effects of unconditional love between the students and me.

The children in my class had reached the fourth grade barely able to speak English, having endured teachers who didn’t show much interest in them or their culture, and didn’t recognize their potential. After a rocky beginning, making lots of cultural blunders, I eagerly accepted my Navajo teacher’s aide offer to help me understand Navajo culture. She taught me how to say a few sentences in Navajo. As soon as I tried speaking their language, the kids became electrified, as though awakening from a stupor. They invited me to their remote homes to meet their families. On the weekends I participated in their day-to-day life and their ceremonies.


The children in my class wanted me to know all about them. As a result, they learned English so fast that four of them won a regional speech contest at the end of the school year.

From those magical years with the Navajo people, I learned that my purpose in life needed to include service to others, given with empathy and unconditional love—a love that included being open to people who were different from me.

I also saw that I had a knack for making learning exciting. But I still needed to discover where my strongest gifts lay—gifts that were unique to me.

Eventually I realized that practicing medicine was my ultimate destiny, a field in which all the above requirements could be fulfilled. I also discovered that I had an inborn gift of being able to figure out root causes and treatment for mysterious illnesses, like a “medical detective.”



I learned that my purpose in life needed to include service to others, given with empathy and unconditional love—a love that included being open to people who were different from me.


WOW: What an incredible learning experience. What was your process with writing this memoir?

Erica: As part of my self-care routine in the morning, I walk in the dry riverbed behind my house. During those walks, I let my mind idle. Old, long-forgotten memories of my time with the Navajo people popped back into my mind. When I returned home, I wrote them down in a notebook.

Most evenings, after dinner, I sat down to continue writing the memoir, even though I would feel utterly exhausted from a full day of seeing patients. As I sat in front of the computer, I didn’t think I had any energy left to write. At the point I was ready to give up, thoughts would enter my head about how this book might make a difference in people’s lives—more than mere entertainment. Those thoughts gave me energy that seemed to come out of nowhere. It felt like I had plugged myself into a current of energy from some universal source. I would usually write from one to four hours at a stretch in the evening.

WOW: How amazing! How do you manage your life as a published author along with your medical career? 

Erica: It is very challenging to attend all the readings, interviews, and webinars while tending to my patients. I have a full time medical practice. My friends urge me to retire and devote myself exclusively to writing and all that entails.

I have no intention of retiring. My work as a doctor is very fulfilling and meaningful. It brings me joy to be of service to people when they are vulnerable and in great need. I will have to find a way to juggle all my interests in a way that is sustainable. This is my latest challenge.

WOW: What do you hope people take away from reading your memoir?

Erica: My hope is that the readers will feel inspired to dive into unfamiliar territory and learn about people and cultures that are different from what they are used to. My hope is that they will keep their hearts and minds open while they listen and learn without judging. My hope is also that the reader will have a whole new appreciation and understanding of the Navajo people, as seen through my eyes.

WOW: I really believe that readers will. What are you working on now? What can we expect next from you?

Erica:  Currently I am working on memoir #2 and #3.

Memoir #2 will be about my time in the Peace Corps where I created bilingual teaching materials for the Quechua-speaking Indians whom I lived with in a tiny village at 12,000 ft in the Andes.

While in Ecuador, I managed to talk my way into an all-male climbing club in Quito. The men accepted me like a mascot and taught me all about snow and ice climbing, glacier travel, and rock climbing. I enthusiastically learned what the men had to teach me and ended up doing an ascent of a peak on Mt. Sincholagua that had never been climbed before. The peak was subsequently christened with my name, Pico Erica Elliott. I also was among the first women to climb Aconcagua, 23,000 ft, in Argentina.

On the reservation, a Navajo grandmother made a prophecy that I would “face huge obstacles and challenges” in my life, and if I survived, I would have “powerful medicine to bring to the people.” I viewed my adventures in the high mountains and the extremely dangerous climbing as training for making my mind and body strong in anticipation of whatever awaited me along the path toward my life’s purpose.

Much of the memoir contains flashbacks about my unusual childhood growing up all over the world with a Swiss mother and a general as my father. I began school in England and graduated from high school in Germany. The readers will see the many powerful forces at work in shaping my life.

The last part of memoir #2 involves how I discovered that being a doctor was the life purpose I was looking for. Against all odds, including having no money, I got into medical school.

Medical school was both thrilling and disillusioning— and even sometimes shocking. In order to excel and be near the top of my class, I had to put my soul in a little box and tuck it away, hoping that someday I could retrieve it and take it out of storage.

Memoir #3 takes the reader on the final leg of the journey towards meaning and purpose.

I had two catastrophic events in my adult life, chillingly similar to what the Navajo grandmother had said in her prophecy, both of which almost took my life.

Thirty years ago, the first health crisis knocked me off the golden path of mainstream medicine and eventually led me right into my soul’s work, that of being a true healer and not merely a pill dispenser who treats symptoms without addressing underlying root causes of illness.

My current medical practice is deeply meaningful and in complete alignment with my heart, head, and soul. Patients come to me from throughout the country and even abroad, asking me to help them with their mysterious illnesses. I have been nicknamed “the Medical Detective.” I walk the reader through some of the fascinating cases I see and how I solve them using a whole array of tools which includes deep and respectful listening, extensive questioning, intuition, the science of environmental medicine, nutritional medicine, herbal medicine, indigenous medicine, and mainstream medicine when appropriate.

The second health catastrophe brought me intense suffering, which eventually cracked my heart wide open and led to enormous breakthroughs. I unabashedly love my patients and express that to them. My medical practice has become my spiritual practice—a vehicle for transmitting love, empathy, and kindness.

Memoir #4 will be about my son, titled, “How My Son Raised Me.”

WOW: You have lived such an incredibly rewarding life. I can't wait to read what you have published next. Thank you again for your time and best of luck on the tour! 



-- Blog Tour Schedule

July 13th @ The Muffin
What goes better with coffee in the morning than a muffin? Join us at the WOW blog to celebrate the launch of author Erica Elliott's Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.
https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

July 15th @ A Writer's Life
Visit Caroline's blog today and you can read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

July 17th @ CK Sorens' Blog
Stop by Carrie's blog and you can read her review of Erica Elliott's Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://www.cksorens.com/blog

July 20th @ Memoir Revolution
Read Jerry Waxler's essay "Losing Yourself to Find Yourself," inspired by Erica Elliott's memoir Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert. 
https://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/

July 22nd @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog today where she spotlights Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
http://www.astorybookworld.com/

July 26th @ Michelle Cornish's Blog
Visit Michelle's blog and you can read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://www.michellecornish.com/blog

August 1st @ Deborah Zenha-Adams
Visit Deborah's blog today and you can read her insights into Erica Elliott's Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert. 
http://www.deborah-adams.com/dzas-blog/

August 3rd @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Visit Kathleen's blog today and you can read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://www.krpooler.com/

August 4th @ Beverely A. Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog and you can read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
http://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

August 7th @ The New England Book Critic
Visit Victoria's blog today and you can read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://thenewenglandbookcritic.com/

August 7th @ Books, Beans, and Botany
Visit Ashley's blog today and you can read a review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://booksbeansandbotany.com/

August 8th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion
Stop by Linda's blog and read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

August 10th @ Fiona Ingram's blog
Fiona will be featuring author Erica Elliott's memoir Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

August 13th @ To Write or Not to Write
Visit Sreevarsha's blog and read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert
https://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

August 14th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog and read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

August 15th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog today and you can read her review of Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert.
https://strength4spouses.blog/


***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

To win a copy of the book Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert by Erica Elliott, M.D., please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on July 19th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

7 comments:

Angela said...

Fantastic interview! I'm so intrigued by Erica's memoir. What an incredible journey full of rich experiences. I'm eager to learn more about the Navajo people.

Erica ~ It sounds like you're a serial memoirist! Memoirs 2, 3, and 4 sound equally intriguing. I admire memoirists so much because it's the hardest thing to write. I'm writing one right now, and like you, I kept diaries that I'm pulling from, and I'm so thankful I wrote in them since my memoir takes place thirty years ago. It's interesting you say that the 2016 election prompted you to share your story. One of my writing instructors said the same thing about her novel. Particularly the campaign slogan because she worried about the dangers of nostalgia.

You've given me so much inspiration to dedicate myself to my memoir. :) If you could write every evening after seeing a full day of patients (!) I can certainly do it too. Thank you Erica for the work you do, and I wish you the best of luck on your tour!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--Initially, I didn't think this book would appeal to me. A doctor in the southwest? At first glance, I thought that was what Erica's book was about. Thanks for doing the interview, so I could delve deeper into Erica's story and find out what it's really about.

Erica--I'm glad you took the time--and are still taking the time--to chronicle your life. The election of 2016 was a nightmare that turned into a reality. In the past three years, we HAVE needed more stories to unite us, instead of divide us. I hope that in January of 2021, we will have a leader who is on a mission to bring us together.

Your #1 memoir sounds fascinating. And moving. And healing. Keep working on the other volumes. Good luck with getting the writing down. May your pen be swift and your time every day (after your medical practice work) be productive and energizing, instead of exhausting.

And Angela--I'm glad this interview might prod you into working on your memoir. You--like Erica--have led a fascinating life, even though it was very different from Erica's. The world needs your story as well. Write it. I will buy it, along with lots of other people.

Dr. EE said...

Nicole and Angela, I thoroughly appreciate your comments. I will take your words to heart, especially what you said about, "May your pen be swift and your time every day be productive and energizing—instead of exhausting." I am breathing those words in deeply. I hope you enjoy the book. Sending many blessings, Erica.

Roberta said...

I look forward to reading this book.

Linda Everson said...

I would love to read this book.

TRIPPER2365 said...

This looks like a very good book .

lilyk said...

This book looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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