Sunday, May 6, 2007

TBR Review: State Boys Rebellion by Michael D'Antonio


I'm not a non-fiction fan, and I have no recollection of where I got the recommendation for this book. BUT, having now read it, I can say that everyone should read this book. D'Antonio has an easily readable and engaging style, so even if you don't love non-fiction, you can get through it easily.

Basically, it follows the life of Fred Boyce, one of the "State Boys" of Massachusetts in the 1950's. But to tell Fred's story is to tell the story of thousands of others - boys and girls caught up in the idea of "eugenics". Here's the dictionary definition of eugenics:

the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, esp. by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).

There were people in the early part of this century who believed that we should take all "feebleminded" children and lock them away...not allowing them to be part of society, or to reproduce, and so forth. Many of the children targeted were children like Fred Boyce, foster kids who had simply never had a loving home or any quality education and were therefore considered "retarded" or "feebleminded" when actually they were nothing of the kind.

The story told here specifically is quite interesting. But you're also left with larger looming issues. Which of our beliefs today will someday be considered horrific? Are we making assumptions, or even decisions, about certain people based on looks, language, etc., that will turn out to be horrifyingly wrong? This is a great book, not only for the content of the book, but for the thoughts that will spring from the subject matter. You should read it.

4 comments:

booklogged said...

But, I already have my nonfiction books picked. There are so many more I want to add - like this one.

kookiejar said...

That sounds like a very interesting book. Where does the 'Rebellion' (from the title) come in? Or would that be giving too much away?

Lisa said...

Well, it wouldn't give it away..there wasn't one set rebellion per se...it's more about how these boys realized over time that they didn't belong in this place and how they each rebelled against that, and against society's opinion of them in general...

kookiejar said...

I thought that's what it might have referred to, thanks!