STUBBORN CHILD by Mark Devlin

STUBBORN CHILD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unusual autobiography by a young man caught in the vicious web of institutional life from age seven almost to the present. Massachusetts retained on its books draconian laws going back to Puritan days. One of these stated that ""Stubborn Children. . .may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or House of Correction. . ."" Over 200 years later, citing that statute, Massachusetts committed young Devlin to the Roslindale Detention Center. Thus began a journey, chronicled here by Devlin, from one boys' institution to another, leading almost inexorably to imprisonment. In between, short intervals at home served only to demonstrate the total failure of the institutional system to rehabilitate anyone. Taught by incompetent institutional instructors who themselves were the dregs of the system, until he fell far behind the abilities of outside children, and physically abused by bullying wardens far beyond the parental abuse that had caused his initial problems, Devlin was poorly adjusted to the real world. Totally unloved by anyone who mattered, Devlin in his brief sorties into that world developed fantasies of success: today--a famous actor, tomorrow--a great composer, the next day--a beloved singer, and so on; but everything he tried lasted only days or weeks until, forcing his own failure, he would return to the cycle of stealing and living by his wits. This is a sad, but ultimately pointless book. Throughout, one waits for a resolution that never comes. Neither does Devlin seek a redress of grievances, for the laws that victimized him have seen been repealed. Others (Brendan Behan, e.g.) have experienced the same as Devlin and written better of it. We are left only with a cry from the heart, but hanging as to where Devlin is headed next.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum