Addiction, Nampeyo and Other Letters to the Editor


To the Editor:

Although I appreciate Deborah Needleman’s review of Glenn Adamson’s “Craft: An American History” and its call to recognize the contributions of “Indigenous people, African-Americans, women and the working class,” an addendum should be made to the caption of the photograph that accompanies it.

The photographer is acknowledged by name, but the artist featured in the photo is not. She is none other than Nampeyo, an innovative and influential potter who was famous in her lifetime and remains one of the most well-known Native American artists to this day. Her work can be found in museums around the world including the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and one of her dazzling pots was recently on view in the latter, under the same roof as Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings.

Proper respect and recognition is due for an artist who has had such a lasting impact on American art and design. After all, would a photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe at work be captioned simply as “an American artist painting a canvas”?

Caroline Jean Fernald
Berkeley, Calif.

Anatomy of Addiction

To the Editor:

In her review of Carl L. Hart’s book “Drug Use for Grown-Ups” (Jan. 17), Casey Schwartz is right to note that many readers might feel “discomfort” when hearing about the author’s “full-throated endorsement” of opiates for recreational use. That includes his own regular use of heroin, which Hart suggests he can easily control and also has benefits. The estimated more than two million Americans who are in need of treatment are not so lucky. For them, addiction has serious repercussions — the loss of friends and family and careers, and the unrelenting need to feed their habit by any means possible — that make life not only miserable but also very risky.

With drug fatalities in the United States at record levels last year and more than 450,000 deaths over the past two decades (a majority of them opioid-related), it is inconceivable how Hart can dismiss the “opioid crisis” in scare quotes, suggesting that it does not exist.

This crisis is real and a public health menace, especially for those who cannot access drug treatment, the most effective way to address the disease of addiction. I agree with Hart that the “war on drugs” has failed, but his war on the reality of addiction is far more dangerous.

Mitchell S. Rosenthal
New York

Mitchell S. Rosenthal, M.D., is the founder of Phoenix House and president of the Rosenthal Center for Addiction Studies.

To the Editor:

As an avid reader of the Book Review, I have rarely been more angered than I was by Schwartz’s review of “Drug Use for Grown-Ups.”

While I agree with Carl Hart’s view that drugs need to be legalized, and that some drugs can actually be useful, I disagreed with practically everything else he is cited as writing, especially his callous dismissal of the oft-ruined lives of the 30 percent of opioid users who become addicted.

My beautiful, creative and bipolar daughter recently died after 40 years of opioid addiction that took away what could have been a successful life. Proof that genes often rule, she had four addicted grandparents, and my maternal grandmother also had an addicted bipolar daughter and a schizophrenic son, as did I.

And while my daughter died of other causes, if I or anyone unaddicted had taken the dose of methadone she took each day as part of medication-assisted treatment, it wouldn’t take — as my neuropharmacologist older daughter reminded me — alcohol or another drug in the mix to kill them. And as my husband, a recovering alcoholic, said as we discussed this review, “By the time you know you’re addicted, it’s too late.”

Rosemary Daniell
Savannah, Ga.

Reality Check

To the Editor:

Reading his By the Book interview (Jan. 24), I thought Brad Taylor would turn out to be yet another male writer who doesn’t know that women write books, but I was wrong.

He ultimately cites two women authors: Willa Cather, source of “the most boring writing ever,” and Delia Owens, whose book he can’t finish. He attributes the latter failure to something in himself; perhaps it’s his conviction that reading is fundamentally about “escape.”

Gail Griffin
Kalamazoo, Mich.

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