The Degenerates

 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
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The Degenerates
Age Range
12+
Release Date
March 17, 2020
ISBN
978-1534419353
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The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose in an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots the doctors have deemed them to be. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother couldn’t bring himself to support a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

The Degenerates
(Updated: May 05, 2020)
Overall rating 
 
4.7
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
Life is beyond hard if you're unlucky enough to be placed in The Massachusetts School For the Feeble-minded. Maxine, struggles to protect her younger sister Rose. Alice tries hard just to survive. And London finds herself carted to the institution just for being pregnant and at the wrong place at the wrong time. Each of these girls are labeled morons, imbeciles, and idiots. Their sentences are for life. Still there's a message of hope. A hope that some are determined to fight for even when the odds are stacked against them.

What worked: Wowza, wow, wow. This is a powerful, gut-wrenching story of four girls that live in a state institution at the beginning of the 20th century. These included the disabled, marginalized, and those that were LBGT. Life was beyond horrific in these institutions. Readers see that world through the eyes of four girls. Each one of these individuals has her own unique story.

Maxine fights for her younger Down syndrome sister Rose. She has a secret that if revealed could mean even worse than being in the school. Alice has a club foot and is black. Her friendship with Maxine is one that helps her get by even when the bullies threaten them.

The real story though is from London. She's been through a number of foster homes, orphanages, and lives with an older woman. She also happens to be pregnant. After the police raid her apartment, she's sent to the institution. Her story kind of reminds me of my own Italian grandfather's stories of being a boy in a state orphanage in the early 20th century. My grandfather said no one should have to live through the horrific conditions he did. He shared his experiences only after our governor in the early 1980s suggested maybe reopening state orphanages.

In THE DEGENERATES London shows what is expected of those girls unfortunate to be living in the school. This includes brutal repetitious patterns that the doctors feel is 'best' for them. London shows spunk and determination. She's a real survivor who refuses to let the doctors and those in charge of the institution think she's subhuman. There's one scene with babies that is haunting. One of the doctors comes into the area and claims that the babies are not quite human and don't experience pain. The cruelty that some felt toward those that aren't 'the norm' is horrific.

At the end of the novel is a historical account of what was behind the basis of creating these institutions. How the social system rounded up the poor, disabled, marginalized( this included people of color, indigenous people, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community) and institutionalized them for life.The idea behind this was called eugenics-the pseudoscience of human improvement through human breeding. Some earlier authoritarian leaders used this theory to justify their cruel and inhumane actions against groups of people.

Powerful, fascinating glimpse where those outside of so-called norms are sentenced to life in institutions locked away from the rest of society. But in this tale there is an underlining message of hope and determination. That hope and love can help one rise above terrible situations.
Good Points
1. Horrifying, yet fascinating glimpse into life in a 20th century institution for the disabled and marginalized
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