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Letters to the Editor (7/5/17)

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Coincidence?

[Re "Not-So-Green Roof: BTV Airport's Garage-Top Garden Has Deteriorated," June 21]: The stuff in this picture appeared two weeks ago at the roof garden. Also, for the first time this summer, the bins of Seven Days at the airport were all empty. 

Dick Mills

South Burlington

Alternative Authors

Your story about Dorothy Canfield Fisher was most interesting and comprehensive ["Surrender Dorothy?" June 21]. Unfortunately, it does not suggest any other authors who are worthy of the children's book award title. How about some suggestions from Judy Dow and others who oppose the DCF title? It would be helpful if you were to publish such a list.

John A. Fatherley

Bradford

Katherine Paterson Award?

Reading ["Surrender Dorothy?" June 21] about Dorothy Canfield Fisher, I was surprised and disappointed to read that Katherine Paterson supports continuing the award in Fisher's name. As an avid reader and appreciator of Paterson's books, I have always been impressed by her fair and sensitive treatment of topics that emphasize diversity.

Reporter Molly Walsh aptly compares the issue of honoring someone who had some questionable views that have surfaced with the South Burlington High School decision to remake the mascot's moniker. Another important point, which some librarians have made, is that Canfield is probably not widely read nor recognized by those who read the books awarded in her name.

I have a suggested solution. We have a Vermont author who is widely read and recognized for her work: the very same Katherine Paterson. I recommend consideration of this award being renamed in her honor.

Karen Grace

Northfield

Much Ado About Dorothy

As an avid reader and also a community library volunteer, I find it inexcusable that there are those who want to remove Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name from the children's book award ["Surrender Dorothy?" June 21]. The reasoning behind the push for the removal of her name is feeble and attempts to discredit an incredible individual's contributions to children's literacy.

Fisher's involvement in the discussion of eugenics was a current topic in the early 20th century that had government and local interest and support. She wasn't an anomaly in her involvement. And the other arguments are that the book award has the same acronym as the Department for Children and Families and that children no longer recognize her name. These are reasons to remove the name of a woman who spoke five languages, wrote 40 books and was one of the 10 most influential women in the U.S. during her lifetime?

We need to educate our children better if they do not know who Fisher was or how she contributed to our literacy in Vermont. Let's discuss her viewpoints instead of trying to conceal them by removing her name. Her involvement in eugenics should be thought-provoking in a classroom, not silenced. Removing her name because she wasn't 100 percent perfect or because some people are offended by her past actions or words is a missed opportunity for education and intellectual discussion. How about we all stop scraping for negativity and look at the positive aspects of a person, rather than dwell on the negative?

Addison Kasmarek

Fairfax

Unbelievable Story

In this era of fake news, the first thing we have to ask ourselves about any story is: Is it true? As far as I can tell, your story about Dorothy Canfield Fisher ["Surrender Dorothy?" June 21] is not.

Judging an author's political opinions by a few snippets from the mouth of a fictional character is a dangerously naïve way to read fiction. Fisher was a radically, passionately egalitarian writer and citizen. She is not here to defend herself, but her work remains. Take a look at it; don't rely on a few snippets taken out of context. Read her biography and her letters. Ask yourself if this woman could in any way be described as racist. Then ask yourself if this was a well-written article. Maybe the Seven Days staff needs to do a little more reading.

Jessie Haas

Westminster

Editor's note: In the interest of media literacy, we have to object to this letter writer's characterization of our June 21 cover story as "fake news." Critics are lobbying the state librarian to drop Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name from the award program, and he is seriously considering it. This conflict exists; we didn't invent it. Disagreeing with certain arguments in a story that presents both sides of the issue does not mean the report is fabricated.

Judging Authors

I was saddened to read the article about Dorothy Canfield Fisher, author of one of my favorite books, The Home-Maker, a rare feminist work of the 1920s that does not reflect racist views ["Surrender Dorothy?" June 21]. Understood Betsy, also by her, is a fantastic children's book that encourages girls to take charge of their lives. So it was upsetting to learn of Fisher's association with the eugenics movement, even if the evidence doesn't prove that she was an ardent supporter. Though I feel conflicted about it, I don't object to changing the name of the award. 

However, I urge people not to abandon her books because of personal views she may have held. The two I have read are thought-provoking, life-affirming stories that I can't recommend more highly. Moby-Dick is an incredible book, even though Herman Melville abused his wife. Such cases remind us that people are very complicated, capable of both good and evil. While we should be aware of a writer's beliefs when considering their work, we don't need to cast their books aside even if they made bad decisions or held repellent views. 

I was also alarmed that the attitudes of racist characters were presented as evidence of Fisher's own racism. Creating characters that hold racist views isn't racist; it's honest and realistic. Later the article put forward more solid evidence of racist undertones in her work. We should make a clear distinction between these two very different cases.

Sonia DeYoung

Burlington

'Thank You, Imam'

Many thanks to Kymelya Sari for writing ["Leading Multitudes," June 21] about the Islamic Society of Vermont and the mosque's imam, Islam Hassan. I am saddened to learn Imam Hassan will soon leave Vermont. Since his arrival in 2011, he has actively welcomed all Vermonters to visit the mosque, learn about Islamic beliefs and rituals, and meet members of the congregation. Such friendly person-to-person contact between Muslims and non-Muslims is a joy that is essential to the health of our Vermont community. Thank you, Imam. We will miss you.

Paul Erlbaum

East Montpelier


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