Review of Son of Two Bloods

Son of Two Bloods, by Vincent L. Mendoza (University of Nebraska Press, 1996)

Muscogee citizen Vincent Mendoza is the author of Son of Two Bloods, an engaging autobiography recently published by the University of Nebraska Press. The book was winner of the North American Indian Prose Award in 1995.

The book’s title refers to Mendoza’s mixed heritage, as the offspring of a Creek mother and a Mexican father. Martha Mae McIntosh met Consepcion “Concho” Mendoza at Cains’ Ballroom in Tulsa, where she had moved after graduating from Chilocco Indian School. Martha’s parents were Newman and Annie McIntosh of Hitchita.

Mendoza began writing his autobiography nearly ten years ago, while he was recovering from surgery. He originally planned to focus on his experiences in the Marines, but the manuscript grew to include reminiscences from his childhood and married life as well.

Son of Two Bloods begins with four-year-old Vincent’s trip to Claremore Indian Hospital to visit his great-grandmother. Sissy Kernels lay near death, and Vincent remembers her as his link to traditional Mvskoke life before the Civil War. As a young girl, she was among the “Loyal Creeks” who fled north to Kansas with Opothleyahola.

Mendoza dedicated this book to his grandchildren, and it is clear that he places a high value on family relations.

The Mendozas lived on the north side of Tulsa in a neighborhood near other Mexican families. They attended a local Catholic church as well as Okmulgee Indian Baptist Church, where Vincent’s grandfather was preacher. The McIntosh family camp house became an important part of Vincent’s childhood.

But it was also a place where he “felt like an oddball, a boy without a race.” Mendoza grew up attending Mexican fiestas and Creek church meetings while participating in more typically “American” pastimes as well—swimming and bicycling, Little League baseball, and Boy Scouts. Mendoza’s struggle with identity and encounters with prejudice are recurring themes in his autobiography.

Vincent learned to play the saxophone while still in elementary school. He became the youngest member of the Mendoza family mariachi band led by his uncle Claude. Vincent later organized his own band and played at Mexican dances throughout Oklahoma.

As a teenage athlete, he dreamed of being “the next Jim Thorpe.”

Mendoza enlisted in the Marines after graduating from high school in 1966, intent on avenging the Vietnam death of his best friend. He was surprised and disappointed when he found himself assigned to the military postal service. His tour of duty took him to Okinawa and Vietnam, where he eventually saw action in 1969 and “cheated death three times.” The deaths of several more close friends and work on board a hospital ship gave Mendoza a deeper appreciation for the value of life.

Discharged in 1970, Mendoza returned to Tulsa where he married and started a family. He worked at various jobs and got involved in community and church activities during the seventies and eighties. He was busy pursuing the American dream when tragedy struck again—the cancer-related deaths of an adopted son in 1991 and of his wife Debbie a year later.

Mendoza faced loneliness and despair, but his autobiography ends on an optimistic note. “Endure, then weep, endure, and be rewarded, endure and rejoice, endure and learn, coming full circle . . . eternal.” He remarried in 1994 and moved to McAlester with his new wife Alice.

Son of Two Bloods is written in an informal and candid style that allows Mendoza’s lighthearted attitude toward life to take center stage. Playful anecdotes scattered throughout the book demonstrate his mischievous sense of humor, and he also has a flair for romance.

But Mendoza believes in the importance of “the invisible world” as well, a theme he comes back to many times in this autobiography. His life story is testimony to the power of faith in the midst of struggle.

Muscogee Nation News, May 1997

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