Unfit by Lara Cleveland Torgesen
Synopsis from Goodreads: Chrissy Rollings has a mountain of troubles to overcome, one that would crush most other girls her age.
She was born in a small North Carolina town in 1952, into a poor but happy and loving family that always managed to scrape by each month... until the night her father died in a car crash, plunging the family into poverty. Chrissy’s mother is forced to take low-paying jobs to supplement her meager welfare checks, leaving Chrissy to raise her five siblings. But even these sacrifices are not enough.
North Carolina was among the states to practice eugenics — forcing sterilization procedures on thousands of people deemed “unfit” to reproduce. When Chrissy’s mother was faced with the choice of having 14-year-old Chrissy sterilized or losing her welfare check, she makes the only choice she feels she can and signs the consent form. That act of survival sets into motion a series of events that shape the course of Chrissy’s life forever.
Wow this is something I never knew about and it breaks my heart, this book was fascinating it felt like a true story but was a fictionalized amalgamation of different people, and it worked well, I really came to care about Chrissy.
I never knew anything about the eugenics program before and was horrified that this happened in our country and how long North Carolina held on to this antiquated practice. If you don’t know what I am talking about eugenics is- forcing sterilization procedures on thousands of people deemed “unfit” to reproduce. And who decided this? People with fancy degrees who thought they knew better than anyone else. Kids who were sent to juvenile hall were sterilized, and girls like Chrissy whose mother was on welfare were threatened if she didn’t have the surgery they would lose their benefits, Chrissy’s mother worked a job but it wasn’t enough to raise all of her children. And yes before you think it Chrissy’s parents were married and had children then her father was killed in a car accident that is when they ended up on welfare.
That Chrissy was ever able to love & marry and have a happy life was a credit to her strength even when she felt she had Unfit tattooed across her forehead most of her life. How awful would that be to be told at the age of 14 that you are unfit?? Especially when Chrissy’s mother dies too and she loses all her brothers and sisters and feels the guilt of being mean to her mother after the surgery and what really bothered me they didn’t sterilize her mother and how could Chrissy not feel anger towards her mother who had signed the papers before Chrissy was even told what would happen to her.
This book grabbed me right away and was hard to put down, it is a fascinating read and well written. My only qualm was I so wanted Chrissy to find her siblings, I wanted them all to be okay and had been raised by loving happy parents but with a book like this the reality is she probably never could find them especially the little ones, but I wanted a happy ending for Chrissy, I wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be okay, so the author did a great job at making me care about the characters in this book. This book is a must read , about an embarrassing and heartbreaking time in North Carolina history.