October 25, 2010
One Woman’s Step-by-Step Journey from Dysfunction to Inspiration
“Unwanted” is the story of Devina Jacobs, a black girl born in the South during the Great Depression. Abandoned by both parents, Devina was raised by a great-aunt but then later turned over to her uncaring and often hateful mother. With a lack of parental supervision and no one to teach her how to survive, much less succeed in life, Devina soon found herself in trouble—with men and with the law.
The author, Delores Justice, who is herself Devina Jacobs, tells her own story, but has changed the names to protect those she loves. But “Unwanted” is far more than a memoir—it’s a time capsule, a page from American history that provides a personal and introspective cultural look into African-American history, the drug culture of the 1960s and ’70s, and how one woman survived against all odds—at times through luck and other times by sheer determination. Readers quickly come to sympathize with Devina, and while they might not always approve of the decisions she makes, they never cease to cheer her on, hoping she will get herself past the mistakes to create a better life for herself—and despite many obstacles, she doesn’t let her readers or herself down.
At the center of Devina’s story are a cast of characters any novelist would be fortunate to bring to life. Devina’s mother, Greta, is a stunning embodiment of selfishness—a woman completely lacking in maternal instinct. After abandoning Devina when she is only three months old, Greta comes back into her life unwillingly when Devina is a teenager, and from then until her death, Greta continually taunts her daughter, trying to compete with her, to control her relationships, to abuse her, and to lie about her to others to hurt her. In the book, Devina relates what she endured as a teenager living with her mother:
After Devina becomes a single mother and moves out, she has difficulty supporting herself. At one point, she finds herself homeless and goes to her mother for shelter. Rather than letting Devina or her infant child stay the night, her mother replies, “Devina, close my door when you leave.” Later, when Devina ends up in jail, her mother tells her, “I’m so glad that they got you. I was wondering how long it would take. You look good in here and this is the right place for you.” This mother-daughter relationship will leave readers shaking their heads, wondering how any mother could behave in such a way. And yet, they will understand why Devina repeatedly tried to repair the relationship until she justifiably gave up.
Another memorable character is Eddie, a man who enters Devina’s life with good intentions and helps her when she is most in need, but Eddie is haunted by his own demons, from drinking to a hot temper, as well as low self-esteem. Devina and Eddie’s long-term relationship of ups and downs reflects how people can become stuck in ruts from which they refuse to dig themselves out, as well as how one woman, despite those around her, was determined to make life better for herself even when the most important people in her life would not support or join her.
Most admirable is the honesty of this book. Devina never seems to hide the truth or try to color things to make herself or anyone else look better than he or she really was. She forthrightly tells her story, not to justify her behavior, but to justify her existence. Although born an unwanted child, she comes to feel justified in the fact that God had reason for her to live and she has found a purpose, first in raising her grandson and then in writing her book. Today, she wants her story told so it may serve as an example to others, to provide hope to those at the low points of their lives, and to prevent others from making the mistakes she made.
In the end, Delores steps forward and reveals that we can have a better life if we only take time to think about our actions:
I sincerely hope readers will make the choice to read “Unwanted,” to spend some time getting to know Devina Jacobs. She is an unforgettable woman whose story will make readers reconsider where we have been, individually and as a nation, where we are today, and what is possible if we only choose it.
For more information about “Unwanted” and Delores Justice, visit www.DeloresJustice.com.
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and author of the award-winning “Narrow Lives”
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