The compelling, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal—some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate’s bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach
From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents—hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.
The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.
Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.
October 22nd, 2019
Non-fiction, U.S. History & Adoption
Two years ago I read Before We Were Yours and it remains one of the most impactful books based on true events that I have ever read. While the characters were fictional, Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Adoption Scandal were not.
Books like Before We Were Yours are powerful because they bring to light heartbreaking parts of history that many people were unaware of before. In addition, this book took on an even bigger role for a group of people who came forward as children were connected to these actual events.
Before and After shares the non-fiction real-life accounts of 12 victims and their personal stories including photos and artifacts from the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage. Authors Judy Christie & Lis Wingate took on the powerful role of connected these victims to each other and to siblings some of them never knew they had.
While what Georgia Tann did was just horrific, I did appreciate that some of the stories shared moments of light in a time of such darkness. The story of baby Lillian who’s adoptive parents chose her over a healthy baby boy when they found her sickly and covered in a rash in a corner of a room on their way to pick up their baby was especially impactful. Her adoptive parents ended up elbowing past Tann and choosing Lillian, which ultimately saved her life. Tann would leave the sickly children to die since they were what she assumed “worthless” and it is estimated that over 500 children lost their lives while in the care of Tann.
This book felt very satisfying as Before We Were Yours opened the door to such a tragic part of fairly recent U.S. History. I love the idea that this group of survivors was able to come together and now have each other to process with and support one another. While the stories in Before and After are heartbreaking it was also filled with lots of hope and I highly recommend it but definitely read Before We Were Yours first!
Thank you to Ballantine Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.