Deborah Luskin


Commentator Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist, and educator.

I used to like Green-Up Day, when I gladly pitched in to pick up roadside trash in my neighborhood. It was like a community game of I Spy, scouring the leaf litter for brown bottles, the glint of an aluminum can, or hitting a jackpot of a six-pack jettisoned at chugged intervals. In the early years, we’d find parts of cars that looked as if they’d been assembled by Henry Ford himself.

I learned about LaCrosse, Wisconsin, from a Planet Money episode called, The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death - a city of more than fifty thousand residents, where ninety-six per cent of them have an Advance Care Plan on file.

Like everyone who travels Route 30 to and from Brattleboro, I’ve been watching construction of the new I-91 bridge over the West River for years. The project began in the fall of 2013, when interstate traffic moved onto the southbound bridge and PCL Civil Constructors began dismantling the old northbound span, girder by girder.

My town merged schools with a neighboring town about six years ago, and it’s been a great success. Newfane and Brookline have had a history of shared services since 1948, when the NewBrook Volunteer Fire Department was established.

Given the debate about acceptance and tolerance, religious and otherwise, I’ve been reminded of how the Nazis required Jews to wear yellow stars on their clothing as emblems of their identity. And I’ve briefly imagined wearing a yellow star of my own, made with the Islamic image of a star and crescent moon embroidered in the center instead of Juden, the German word for Jew.

I love the live transmissions from the Metropolitan Opera. Usually, it’s the music and spectacle that carries the story, which – face it – can be pretty far fetched. But recently, these operatic stories are reminding me of current U.S. politics.

I have a lot of diplomas, dating from nursery school right through to a PhD. But none of them has as much meaning as the one I earned this summer that’s just arrived in the mail from the Green Mountain Club, certifying my end-to-end through hike of The Long Trail.

For the second time in as many years, Newfane voters are being asked to reconsider a bond vote that failed - about whether or not to build a new town office.

Luskin: Lawn Signs

Oct 11, 2016

I’ve never been one to put out lawn signs for political candidates, partly because declaring who you’re voting for tends to end any meaningful discussion before it even begins. Once people make up their minds, they generally don’t want to be confused by facts, let alone someone else’s opinions. So while I’m willing to engage in civil discussion about the concerns that are pushing me toward one candidate or another, I’ve never put out a lawn sign for my neighbors to see.

Luskin: Shade

Aug 5, 2016

“What do you mean, the party’s outside?” my cousin blurts into the phone. “Outside with no air-conditioning?”

When Phil Hoff was elected Vermont governor in 1962, it was commonly said that a Democrat didn’t win; the Republican lost. Two years later, something similar happened when Barry Goldwater was the controversial and unpopular Republican presidential nominee.

Luskin: Roof Envy

Jul 5, 2016

Earlier this year, my next-door neighbor installed solar panels on the south-facing roof of his barn, and my husband turned green with envy – roof envy.

The other day I ran in to my state representative at the grocery store, where we chatted about our kids’ whereabouts as we loaded our carts for the weekend. I’d already hugged one of my state senators when we bumped into each other outside the farm store, where we stopped to talked gardens. “It must be a relief to be home,” I said. She agreed, then said she was on her way to deliver her petition to be on the ballot again in the fall.

In May 2015, my friend Jan visited me on her way back to Alaska. We’ve maintained a strong bond for almost forty years even though we don’t often write and never call. But when we do get together, we pick up where we left off.

When we still hadn’t had significant snow by the end of January, I started hoping for a Valentine’s Day snowstorm like the one that redeemed the winter of 2007. That was the first snowfall that season and rescued people like me who love winter from the despair of a barren season.

I was enjoying an article by political historian Michael Kazin in a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine about the term “populist” in American political history - a term that this election cycle has been applied to both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Luskin: Act 46

Mar 24, 2016

While Act 46 aims to meet the challenges of declining school population, it has also increased educators’ concerns for job security, parents’ concern for educational continuity, and tax-payers’ hope for relief. The children whose education is at stake have neither voice nor vote in a decision that will affect them most.

As Moderator of Newfane’s Town Meeting, I’ve learned it’s impossible to predict what will become a bone of contention on which the body politic will gnaw. Some years, there’s been heated debate about how much to pay elected officials; others, it’s been about whether or not we really need a new truck. This year, voters worked through the first dozen articles with little discussion and less dissent.

More than half the world’s population already lives in urban areas, which may help explain why we humans are spending so much time sitting indoors.

As saddened as I was by the terrorist bombing in Sultanahmet Square in Turkey last week, I also felt enormous relief. The bombing took place on a Tuesday; two of my children had been in Istanbul the Friday before.