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Kate Palese

Altered Book:

Understood Betsy, Dorothy Canfield Fisher (1916)

Altered book.

Artist Statement

The book is Understood Betsy. It was first published in 1916. It was given to me by my aunt’s neighbor. It is a story about an orphan who is being raised in the city by her overprotective aunts. When one of those aunts gets tuberculosis, she is handed off to her other relatives (who are greatly feared by the city aunts) who live on a farm. She finds she isn’t a delicate flower, loves animals, and becomes a much happier little girl.

In the first reading, at nine, I loved the city aunts. They were so concerned with Betsy, they did all they could for her. I thought they were the best of aunts and quite disliked the rest of the book. The “Farm” family was much too much like my own mother who was firmly of the belief that if you weren’t actively bleeding out, you were ok.

I was living in the Mojave Desert in a trailer. The world of cities, and farms with trees and maple syrup was a faraway kind image. I spent hours in that trailer making paper doll dresses for all of Betsy’s life changes

I have reread this book often. It is sweet, moralistic but a deep part of my childhood. I now love the Farm family, find the city aunts annoying and too fearful.

Short Bio

Kate Palese received a BA degree and a MA degree from San Diego State University. Kate moved to American Samoa where she taught art at the American Samoan Community College for two years. While there she learned a great deal about the culture, and her work was greatly influenced by it. An interest in the learning theory of mammals and her interest in fine art has made her the ideal teacher for Art for Teachers at SDSU. Palese has exhibited her art in Samoa, New Zealand, and California.

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