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The State Boys Rebellion

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  353 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tells the amazing story of how a group of imprisoned boys won their freedom, found justice, and survived one of the darkest and least-known episodes of American history.
In the early twentieth century, United States health officials used IQ tests to single out "feebleminded" children and force them into institutions where they were deni
ebook, 320 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Simon & Schuster (first published April 20th 2004)
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Nov 13, 2007 Monkey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I was fascinated by this book, it's quite tragic but hopeful at the same time. It's an important piece of history that was well documented by D'Antonio and a story well told. Especially interesting for New Englanders as well.
Victoria Weinstein
Mar 09, 2013 Victoria Weinstein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I met Freddie Boyce, one of the subjects of this shattering story, at the end of his life. He gave me an autographed copy of the book and a stuffed animal from his days working for the carnival.

I consider it a great honor to have presided at Freddie's funeral. I will never forget him.

I am currently reading a book about McLean Hospital, which is what reminded me of "The State Boys." Everyone in the Boston area should know this history.
Jul 07, 2007 Gregg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty compelling non-fiction work. Reads much more like a novel with great character development and story lines. Covers several decades in the lives of several men who were committed to a state facility for the mentally retarded in Massachusetts. Somewhat grim given what was done to these boys but the thread of hope and the emergence of independence is always at hand. Well worth your time and it provides lots to talk about in terms of how we treat those who are different.
Dec 29, 2013 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes it was informative, eye-opening to the chapter of American history that is most often 'forgotten' or disregarded. It is interesting how the APUSH book makes no mention of it. The plight is sad and largely ignored in America, etc. and I would wish for more people to know of it.
As a book, though, the writing style was not particularly remarkable, slash did not keep me very engaged [though I admit non-fiction is not typically what I read atoll].
The importance of the message [am glad to be
Rogue Reader
May 31, 2014 Rogue Reader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-us
Reading The State Boys Rebellion just after The Story of Beautiful Girl was almost more than I could bear. Moving from a fictional narrative about the institutionalization of the handicapped to the contemporary institutionalization of handicapped persons, orphans and kids from troubled homes made this episode in human history so much more tragic and wrong.

D'Antonio's work is the personal narrative of Freddie Boyce, one of a group of boys who refused to see themselves as feebleminded. It is also
Mar 21, 2016 Mimi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The things you can learn- from people and their story. I knew a lady. When she passed her obituary mentioned the harsh years she spent at Fernald. I had to know more- what a Massachusetts dirty little secret with a side of American eugenics- WOW! Shocking and horrible! My little lady friend spent over 30 years "enrolled" at this institution and was able to live a second half of life filled with love & light (once paroled at age 45.) I'm amazed that her entire child/adult hood was spent in su ...more
Edwina Hall Callan
Nov 19, 2013 Edwina Hall Callan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2007
Heartbreaking and horrifying.
I cried my way through this book a little at a time.
Elise Dubois
Jun 04, 2014 Elise Dubois rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of the Fernald School, although I work 1 town over in Mass and grew up in NH. As I read this book, my heart went out to all the orphans in America. I was utterly appalled, horrified, and on some level fascinated with the contents. Very well written, and I am glad to hear that the full story came out, even if it was nearly 50 years later. I actually had a grad time reading this before bed, but was okay to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon on the. Porch reading this one. N ...more
Dena Pardi
Jan 24, 2013 Dena Pardi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was terrifically informative. There was so much I didn't realize or didn't know about eugenics. To be honest I wasn't even aware of a movement such as eugenics which is truly a horrifying movement. It made me realize how dangerous ignorance really is. I appreciated that the book wasn't entirely focused on the atrocities and horrors that went on in some of these institutions. Not that they were glossed over but the book isn't mean to traumatize you but to educate you. There we ...more
Jul 22, 2013 Garnet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating insight to a part of American history that not many know about. This is the story of institutionalized boys, deemed "retarded" based upon background, orphan status and changing IQ tests that end up in a state run school during the 30's through the 60's and what they endured. Shocking accounts of science experiments, sterilizations, abuse all done in the name of "eugenics" for a better America. The unfortunate part is a lot of these kids were as normal as anybody, but due to bureaucra ...more
I liked this alright. I enjoy literary journalism for its accessiblity, and this chronicled part of disability history in an engaging way. I was disappointed but not surprised by its aim at a mainstream white readership, which meant that "race" and "disability" where conflated in troubling ways, as though mutually exclusive, and "disabled" meant "white," even though two of the central people whose stories shaped this book and led the activism it detailed were folks of color. Also, the discussion ...more
This book was terrifying that this really happened to these children. No one spoke up for them, well, at least not strongly. They were normal! Yet they were institutionalized over a flawed IQ test. No one should have been subjected to the sexual and physical abuse that these boys suffered. But they were able to fight back, but those in the care of the institution that could not fight back is just unimaginable. I am sick. We must NEVER let this happen again.

But, this book was more about overcomi
Apr 27, 2016 Jeweleye rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not exactly sure when I read this story of an institution that housed boys deemed mentally deficient by the eugenics laws of the time. I was reminded of it after listening to Terry Gross interview Adam Cohen about his book Imbeciles, which discusses the Supreme Court decision upholding forced sterilizations.
Mar 13, 2016 FM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Or maybe 5 stars. An unbelievable--and true--story of perfectly ordinary boys being locked away in an asylum because they didn't have parents or because they were considered to be problems in some way. The radioactive oatmeal story is unbelievable . . . Horrible to consider that this was not that long ago!
Lori K
May 01, 2015 Lori K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely Wonderful!!

I loved this book! To think this was going on streets down from where I grew up is crazy! Michael D'Antonio told the story beautifully and with such respect given to everyone who went thru the bell in that school.
Gabriel Olmeda
This was an intense book that my sister told me to read. It is about the eugenics movement and the separation of mentally disabled people before the 1970s. Very informative and not for the faint of heart.
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

May 22, 2013 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the better non-fiction books I've read in a long time. Very sad and eye-opening account about how normal kids were labeled "morons" and "retarded" and institutionalized en masse in the 50s and 60s. I don't think many young people know how bad these kids had it back then. But it also follows a group of them after they finally get their freedom and then throughout their adult lives where things get better for some.

Author strikes a good balance of historical research and personal anecdotes,
An amazing sad yet you will cheer for them..and never eat Quaker Oatmeal again..
Lisa Rackley
Oct 25, 2015 Lisa Rackley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eye opening account of a very dark point in US history.
Jun 15, 2015 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
About the use of eugenics practiced in the U.S. in the early part of the 20th century to "solve the problem" of children with below-average IQs. The incarceration of these children in state institutions was meant to "save" the American public — and its gene pool — from the "moron" (defined then as anyone with an IQ between 50 and 100). The book focuses specifically on the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded in Waltham, Massachusetts, and how a group of boys (primarily orphans) instigat ...more
Rose Joyce
Jul 14, 2014 Rose Joyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sad history of Fernald School for MR in Waltham MA.
Mar 06, 2016 Phoebe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Feb 11, 2009 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will give this book four stars because it is such an important topic, so rarely explored.

However, the writing is not worthy of a 4, unfortunately. The second half of the book seemed randomly assembled, with too many details of things such as how carnival games work and too few details on the more relevant topics such as their "finding justice".

Still, important topic, definitely worthy of reading.
Jan 30, 2009 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those who are involved with clients from the Department of Mental Retardation or have ever been on the Fernald School campus will be intrigued by this book. I have heard many of the stories behind Fernald but when I actually sat down and read the book my heart was broken. Knowing that individuals I worked with went through this torture. It shows what a long way we have come as a society.
Oct 18, 2009 Stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book completely opened my eyes to a time period that so much injustice was occuring and I didn't even learn about it. That shocked me that this piece of history is just left out of history books. Americans acting like German Nazis?? And let's pretend like it didn't happen??? R-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s. Seriously...
This was an awesome book. Period.
Oct 15, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is certainly not an easy read as far as content but very interesting. I have worked at McLean Psychiatric Hospital therefore this was even more fascinating and heart wrenching knowing that what these boys went through happened on that very same campus. The buildings look the same!
Jun 20, 2009 blktoast rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wonderful-books
I'm so glad that I read this! I used to live in Watertown, and I never knew the history of it. I got 6 copies for both my friends and folks who intern at my day-program for folks with brain injuries, SteppingStones, because I feel it's a story to be read by everybody!
Kim Kastler
Sep 02, 2013 Kim Kastler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is both uplifting, yet sad, as I was a volunteer at the Fernald School in the 1970's through LSRHS. Unbelievable conditions, unbelievable men who had to find lives after Fernald. The eugenics are a big part of the law suit, but not as much as part of the book.
Feb 25, 2009 Davina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
America failed to save their own- the most desperate children and despite reparations YEARS later,the emotional scars behind these boy's accounts will do so much to break our hearts, wondering how our nation can become so neglectful and sadistic...
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