Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood

Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood

by Maureen Stanton


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The “mesmerizing . . . daring and important”* story of a risk-taking girlhood spent in a working-class prison town
*Andre Dubus III

For Maureen Stanton’s proper Catholic mother, the town’s maximum security prison was a way to keep her seven children in line (“If you don’t behave, I’ll put you in Walpole Prison!").  But as the 1970s brought upheaval to America, and the lines between good and bad blurred, Stanton’s once-solid family lost its way. A promising young girl with a smart mouth, Stanton turns watchful as her parents separate and her now-single mother descends into shoplifting, then grand larceny, anything to keep a toehold in the middle class for her children. No longer scared by threats of Walpole Prison, Stanton too slips into delinquency—vandalism, breaking and entering—all while nearly erasing herself through addiction to angel dust, a homemade form of PCP that swept through her hometown in the wake of Nixon’s “total war” on drugs.

Body Leaping Backward is the haunting and beautifully drawn story of a self-destructive girlhood, of a town and a nation overwhelmed in a time of change, and of how life-altering a glimpse of a world bigger than the one we come from can be.     


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328900234
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 07/16/2019
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 162,529
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

MAUREEN STANTON, the author of Killer Stuff and Tons of Money, has been awarded the Iowa Review award, a Pushcart Prize, the American Literary Review award in nonfiction, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Stanton teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Table of Contents

Prologue: You Can't Even Get Out xiii

1 Here We Are Living 1

2 Tilt 33

3 Operation Pocketbook 46

4 Conti la Monty 65

5 Clarity and Logic 77

6 Hello World 114

7 Work-Study 146

8 Speech Acts 161

9 Stop the Dust 192

10 Body Leaping Backward 199

Author's Note 209

Acknowledgments 210

Sources 212

Appendix 216

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Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
bookchickdi 11 days ago
Maureen Stanton's coming-of-age memoir in her working-class prison town in the 1970s, Body Leaping Backward- A Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood, appealed to me for many reasons. I too grew up in a working-class prison town in the 1970s, and I came from a Catholic family with many children. Stanton took me right back to those days- kids playing Flashlight Tag or dodgeball, waiting to hear their mother's voice calling them in for dinner, riding bikes all over town, piling everyone in the car to go to the drive-in movies. Coming from a large family, (there were seven Stanton children) I could relate to her mom meticulously dividing up a bag of M&Ms so that each child got exactly the same amount. I vividly recall going to confession at church, and, like Maureen, worrying about what sins I would have to confess to (you don't want to keep repeating yourself week after week, but what kind of sins can a young child commit?). I found Stanton's memories of Walpole prison interesting. The prison occupied a large presence in the town, both physical and emotional, although I don't recall my mother threatening us with ending up in the local prison if we misbehaved, like her mother frequently did. The Stantons would visit the Hobby Shop, a gift shop located just inside the prison walls, where anyone could buy furniture, jewelry, dollhouses and crafts made by inmates. Most of the children's rooms were furnished from here. The man who ran the shop was a famous Boston mobster, and convicted Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo made jewelry that was sold in the hobby shop. (The town I grew up in did not have a retail shop so I found this fascinating and very strange.) Life changed drastically for the Stantons when their parents divorced and their father moved out when Maureen was twelve years old. Money became scarce, and her mother resorted to shoplifting to feed the family. Eventually, her mother went back to school to become a nurse. She went to school all day, came home to do homework, and then fed her family dinner. It was a difficult life. By the time she was in tenth grade, Maureen was using angel dust (PCP). Angel dust causes you to lose depth perception and balance, causes difficulties in concentration, and apathy. It's a serious drug, and Maureen and her friends were using it frequently. She began skipping school, stealing, became involved in petty crime. (She thought this was typical teenage behavior, but I did not relate to that.) Stanton weaves in historical context to give the reader a good sense of what life was like at that time. Bomb scares were rampant in the 1970s, and "between 1971 and the end of 1972, the FBI reported 2500 bombings on US soil, an average of five bombings per day". Overall, crime rose in the 1970s, and the town of Walpole was no exception. In her junior year of high school, Maureen got a job at a gas station, where she earned work-study credits, and learned a lot about life based on the customers that she waited on. She also met a man who helped her reconnect with her love of literature and writing. She took a writing class in college, and when her mother found Maureen's high school diaries while moving, Maureen used that as the basis for this powerful memoir. Stanton's writing is crisp and poignant, like this sentence she writes describing her parents telling the children about their separation- "A tear slipped down my father's cheek, and then like a chorus we all cried, our last act as an in
Starryeyes 4 months ago
If you have teens, pre-teens or late teens, this book is a must read. The author does an excellent job of revealing her thought process during her experiences and escapades as a teen. Luckily she overcame her internal and external challenges. Thankful for her insight.
Anonymous 4 months ago
This book held my interest more than any other in a very long time. I love memoirs and the author writes with beautiful prose and heartfelt truth. A great read.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I read this compelling memoir right through. Beautifully written and full of insightful observations of suburban adolescence, family, and coming of age in the seventies. Vitally relevant for contemporary times.
QMurr 5 months ago
Very intersting read. This is a story that everyone can relate to in one way or another . What I like most is that it's a story of strength and getting through life's obstacles. Really enjoyed this book!
beentheredonethattwice 5 months ago
I read this book in two sittings and have been looking for a book to sink my teeth into for a long time. Body Leaping Backwards fit the bill for my longing - so well written, trip down memory lane, redemption, and lots of insight into a smart, adolescent mind. Every parent, and anyone who as a teen, took a different or "wrong" path, needs to read this book!
Moopy 5 months ago
Beautifully written, compelling memoir about a teenage girl in the 1970s who's life goes awry, and how she pulled herself together. This is a deeply moving page-turner.