Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Avrum Organick's "Blessings"

By Steve Devitt

NOVEMBER 1, 1999: 

Blessings by Avrum Organick (Red Lake Press), paper, $14.50

In the early 1950s, a young Jewish doctor came from New York City to work at the tuberculosis sanitarium in Window Rock, Ariz. He fell in love with a traditional Navajo girl, and the two spent the next 40 years following his ambition to become a professor of medicine and fighting a variety of prejudices.

Some Navajos didn't like the idea of a Navajo woman marrying a white man. Many of the young doctor's relatives were upset that he had married outside of his religion, although his wife did eventually convert to Judaism. Members of both extended families had fits when the couple's oldest child married in a ceremony combining Jewish, Christian and Navajo rites.

Avrum Organick has recorded these adventures in his novel Blessings, a thinly disguised autobiography. The book will have its greatest appeal to those who question the ongoing clash and blending of cultures in New Mexico. It may not stand definitively as literature, but the book does pay tribute to the simple idea that people can do better than just get along with different ethnic groups.

His 40-plus year marriage certainly provided the writer with material -- enough to write the book and to earn a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, where feminist classmates blasted him for dragging his wife across the country -- to New York, Denver, Milwaukee and Texas -- before their return to New Mexico and 15 years of private practice in Albuquerque. Yet throughout their travels, his inclination to return to the West was almost as strong as his wife's. There is a basic thread in Native American literature of coming home, and that's what the couple did two years ago when he accepted a post at a Tsaile, Ariz., medical clinic. The 73-year-old doctor-turned-writer loves it and has no plans to retire or stop writing.

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