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The State Boys Rebellion Paperback – April 5, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (April 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074324513X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743245135
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment shockingly demonstrated that the world's most powerful narcotic might well be unlimited power over the powerless. Emancipation movements the world over have also taught us that even the most abjectly powerless will, given enough time, fight for their freedom and dignity. These two precepts are at the heart of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist D'Antonio's startling account of the wholesale incarceration of the mentally retarded during the middle decades of the last century. The bastard child of progressivism and eugenics, the institutionalization by the 1930s of needy children with below-average IQs was a well-established part of the legal system. The effect of this was to consign many children to overcrowded and underfunded medical prisons where physical, emotional and sexual abuse was rampant-and quite literally without end. D'Antonio wisely chooses one institution, the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded, in Massachusetts, where a group of boys, utterly (and correctly) convinced of their lack of abnormal status, after nearly two decades of confinement, in 1957 instigated a violent uprising in Ward 22, the prisonlike facility where misbehaving inmates were periodically sent. Thanks to their indomitable conviction that their institutionalization was unjust and the growing awareness on the part of certain sympathetic outsiders over several decades, these young men were finally able to help put an end to this ghastly system. D'Antonio (Atomic Harvest, etc.) deftly combines detailed archival research and extensive personal interviews to paint a richly nuanced picture of a horrifying and shamefully underexposed part of our country's recent history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

DreamWorks Pictures recently purchased the film rights to State Boys Rebellion, the retelling of one of America’s most shameful episodes in history. Fernald was no anomaly. Similar institutions, fostering more than 250,000 mostly normal (if unprivileged) children, survived through the 1970s. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist D’Antonio, author of acclaimed books including Atomic Harvest, recounts this heartbreaking story through archival research and interviews with former State Boys and Fernald administrators. D’Antonio generally strikes a fair balance between the State Boys’ stories and the larger context that produced “the moron as a public danger”—the Progressive-era reforms that posited “subnormal” children as subspecies and the gross misuse of intelligence and radiation testing during the Cold War. “Most troubling” of all, D’Antonio writes, “is that it all began with a grand desire to do good.” As he shows in simple, effective prose, this “good” had vast consequences, ranging from the inhumane treatment of the individual to Nazi ideology. State Boys is, The Washington Post notes, a “crusading book” and “powerful cautionary tale.” At heart, it’s also something more: a courageous tale of children asserting their humanity and changing their fate through small acts of resistance.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Besides the influence of family and growing-up experiences in small town New Hampshire I have been most affected by two people I met in college, my wife Toni and my first mentor, writer Donald Murray. Both have encouraged me to express my creativity, connect with others, and find ways to serve. They understood intuitively what I later found expressed so well by Viktor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning. I've found that if I don't take maysellf too seriously, and add a little silliness, it's a pretty good recipe.
Today I live in Long Island, not far from the sound. I have two grown daughters, Amy and Elizabeth, who have becopme the other great influences on my life.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 28 customer reviews
Overall, this is a very interesting book and an easy read.
Eric Hobart
That any of them survived the horrors of Fernald is miraculous and a great testament to the courage and mettle that they exhibited.
Jon Hunt
I love reading books based on actual history and this actually gave me a good inside on what actually happened in this place.
Laura Loyola

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Ratliff on February 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
The State Boys Rebellion tells the story of the Fernald State School in Massachusetts. Michael D'Antonio does a great job of telling the story through the eyes of Freddie Boyce, a child that grew up in Fernald. The story is quite chilling, specially to those of us who did not live through that time period. It is disgraceful that we, the United States actually started Eugenics, although I was taught in school that Nazi Germany was the creator. This book should remind us that as a society, we sometimes leave out the bad stuff our forefathers did, even if they meant no harm. I would highly reccomend this book to anyone, but it will touch the heart of anyone with a child who is considered "special".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "caborney" on June 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Finally, A Book about the way we were.. or, God forbid, the way we might still be. Mr. D,antonio,s research of our Governments,s nuclear application,s was not intended to lead him right to The Fernald State School, located in Waltham, Massachusetts, and one Mr. Frederick Boyce, But it did for some strange reason, lead him there. With the resulting introduction to Fred Boyce. From his research, Mr. D, Antonio was afforded a view that few Americans are ever afforded. Mr. D,Antonio was afforded a view of just how, our system of social welfare, and social care was doled out in the middle of the twentieth century. The shame of this True story is not soley in the past believe and practice of Eugenics, but in the past believe and practice of warehousing State kids. Warehousing them in any Environement enabled the servicing Social Worker to look like he or she has done their job. This writer still believes this practice still exists today.This Book is a compelling read and I am very gratefull to the author and I am very proud of the courage and accomplishmenst Frederick L. Boyce. (...)
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We could never have an institution today called the Massachusetts School for Idiotic and Feebleminded Youth. It is not just political correctness that would forbid such a name; "idiocy" and "feeblemindedness" were once thought to be real diagnosable conditions, and they are not now. The MSIFY existed, however, but even after it changed its name to the Fernald State School, it was through the 1960s still housing what officials thought were idiotic, moronic, and feebleminded young people. Sadly, huge numbers of the kids kept there (and in countless similar institutions) had no mental handicaps whatsoever. In _The State Boys Rebellion: A True Story_ (Simon and Schuster), Michael D'Antonio exposes the Fernald story, a sorry and sordid tale. The kids described here would today, it is hoped, get reliable foster homes and any special education that was necessary; at the time, they got neglect, assaults, rapes, and cruelty. Some of the boys described here forced their way out, and did fare surprisingly well, and did get their histories out in the public view, so at least in part this is a story of an inspiring victory over the system.
D'Antonio has done a particularly good job at putting the Fernald story into historical context, showing Fernald as a product of the eugenics movement. The idea was that morons (a term coined as a medical diagnosis) could be segregated and prevented from breeding more morons. Among the problems was that at Fernald, plenty of the children were normal. As Fred Boyce, the main State Boy profiled here, said decades later, "Keep in mind that we didn't commit any crimes. We were just seven-year-old orphans." Boyce was of at least average intelligence; even his official record at the place said, "He is certainly not feebleminded.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brandon on August 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I finished this book in just 3 nights. It is a compelling story of the lives of boys/men who endured their childhood in a state 'school for the feebleminded' in Massachusettes during the 1950's. This is a true story, and it reveals just another failed attempt by government to 'protect' Americans. The idea that sterilizing mentally ill persons (based on IQ scores) would rid America of bad genes and therefore create a more competent society, was widely supported both publicly and politically.

Keep in mind that the Eugenics movement in America took place before the Nazi party in Germany had any ideas of racial cleansing. In fact, American scientists who promoted Eugenics were praised by Nazi Germany and asked to speak on the subject of creating a better human.

The author gives enough detail for the reader to form a vague picture of institutional life, without including such graphic recollections that the reader is turned away. More importantly, the author focuses throughout the book on the mental anguish sustained by and the lack of proper education provided to the State Boys (meaning they were wards of the state) as the cause of numerous problems finding work and maintaining relationships during their adult lives.

At the end of this book, I was left feeling disgusted: at how these boys and thousands of others were treated ,

angry: that the government promoted, funded, and attempted to hide the routine warehousing of children and adults into institutions that were understaffed and rampant with abuse of patients,

and ashamed: that Americans have the audacity to point fingers at terrorists and social ills among other nations, when for hundreds of years we have degraded, terrorized, humiliated, enslaved, and ignored our very own citizens.
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