BEYOND THE FOUR CORNERS OF THE WORLD: A Navajo Woman's Journey by Emily Benedek


Email this review


Journalist Benedek returns to the site of her 1992 The Wind Won't Know Me to tell the story of Ella Bedonie, a Navajo woman. Bedonie, a 43-year-old schoolteacher, wife, and mother of three, speaks frankly of her life. She tells of growing up in poverty on the Navajo reservation in Arizona; the traumatic experience of BIA-run boarding school, where students were punished for acting in any way Indian (Bedonie's mouth was washed out with soap by an Indian dorm aide for speaking Navajo); her arranged marriage to Dennis Bedonie after her first husband was killed in Vietnam; her battle with breast cancer. Yet despite her openness, Bedonie remains enigmatic. Why does she tender her resignation to the Gap preschool the day on which she is supposed to begin work? Why, when she is convinced that her cancer and her son's joining a gang were punishment for living off the reservation, does she again move away with her husband and impressionable teenage daughter? But Bedonie's odd behavior is the least problematic aspect of this book. Far worse is Benedek's inability to find a coherent presentation--either chronological or thematic--and her simplistic analysis, which boils down to: Anglos and Indians are different, but Indians can't avoid Anglo culture. She also allows the characters to speak for themselves, which leads to such poetic chapter titles as ""This Is Where I Am Tucked into the Land,"" but Benedek lets her characters speak too much, lending the book the air of an oral history--and an unedited one, at that. Dry and disappointing.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Knopf